Supporters at home desert Harbhajan

April 28th, 2008 - 10:06 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh

Jalandhar/Mohali (Punjab), April 28 (IANS) No supporter turned up at Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh’s home in Jalandhar Monday after the Indian Premier League banned him for 11 games for slapping Sreesanth during a match at Mohali Friday. This was in stark contrast to the outpouring of sentiments for him that was visible everywhere in his hometown and the rest of Punjab in late January when he faced a ban for allegedly making racist comment against Australian Andre Symonds during India’s tour Down Under.

The management of the multi-million-dollar IPL banned Harbhajan from playing the next 11 league games for his Mumbai Indians side after he pleaded guilty of slapping Kings XI Punjab seamer and his India team teammate Sreesanth.

Ahead of the ban announcement, only mediapersons and some neighbours were hanging around at at Harbhajan’s modest residence in the congested Daulatpuri locality of Jalandhar city.

Harbhajan’s family members locked themselves in. His mother Avtar Kaur and one of his sisters at the house refused to speak about the ban.

The spinner’s another sister, Sandeep Kaur, who works in a private bank, told reporters that she had received the news on phone that her brother has been banned for “a few IPL matches”.

“The saving grace is that the ban is only for the IPL matches and his international career will not be affected. Whatever incident happened was unfortunate,” Kaur said as she went about her job in the bank.

Neighbours in his locality said that Harbhajan stayed mostly by himself during his visits here, but some recounted minor incidents of his aggressive behaviour in the past.

“The ban should do good to him. I think he stretched it too far this time. Though Sreesanth is no saint and is equally misbehaving, Bhajji should not have slapped him. That he did it in his home state leaves a bad taste for all Punjabis. He is not a good role model,” said businessman Rajbir Singh.

“Punjabis are aggressive by nature. But Harbhajan should have known where to draw the line. He is a public figure after all,” Jalandhar resident Sonia Singh said.

The management of Kings XI Punjab, the Mohali team owned by Bollywood actress Preity Zinta and her industrialist friend Ness Wadia, Monday gave a studied reaction to the ban imposed on Harbhajan.

“The IPL has made a decision in this matter. With 10 matches to go in IPL, Kings XI Punjab would like to focus on the future - playing and winning its forthcoming games. There will be no further comment on this matter,” a team statement said.

Harbhajan’s mother Avtar Kaur did not comment on the ban but had earlier said the spinner had spoken to her and had regretted the incident.

“He was remorseful about the incident. He did not give any details of what happened but assured me that everything would be fine,” Avtar Kaur said in Punjabi.

Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) joint secretary M.P. Pandove said it was up to the players to keep their heads on their shoulders.

“We do not have any plans so far to start any orientation programme for players. Harbhajan shouldn’t have done this. He should learn a lesson for the future from this episode. He should ensure that this misbehaviour is not repeated,” Pandove said.

Harbhajan rose from modest, lower middle class beginnings and started playing international cricket for the country at the age of 17 years. While he is successful and popular, he has been embroiled in various controversies for his on- and off-field actions.

Despite raking in the moolah from his success in cricket, he and his family continue to live in a modest locality here and a small house. Harbhajan bought a big bungalow in Chandigarh’s upscale Sector 9 last year but has not renovated it so far.

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