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Harbhajan in another storm

Special Correspondent

Chennai: Harbhajan Singh once again finds himself in the centre of a disciplinary storm. The BCCI hearing on the off-spinner for allegedly assaulting S. Sreesanth physically, will be conducted in New Delhi on Monday.

Suspended from the Indian Premier League until a verdict is reached, Harbhajan faces another career crisis.

What transpired between him and Sreesanth — the Board claims to have video evidence — after the contest between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab at Mohali on Friday will be clearer after the hearing. Match Referee Farokh Engineer will be the central figure during the process.

Both Harbhajan and Sreesanth are volatile cricketers on the arena but did the former cross the line this time around?

The beginning

Interestingly, it was during the Challenger Trophy in Chennai in 2006 that Harbhajan and Sreesanth were first involved in an on-field skirmish. There was a hint of physical contact — shoulder to shoulder — and then words were exchanged.

That was a game where Sreesanth bounced at Sachin Tendulkar and then glared at the maestro. Harbhajan Singh, who entered the middle later, did not seem amused at Sreesanth’s display of aggression.

Both cricketers have played several matches together for India since and both have had run-ins with the authorities. Perhaps, Harbhajan has made more news for the wrong reasons. Sreesanth — recovering from an injury — was not around in Australia during the Test series when Harbhajan was handed a five-match ban for assaulting Andrew Symonds racially during the ill-tempered Sydney Test.

BCCI’s backing

Following a furore in India — the BCCI backed the spinner and threatened to pull out of the tour — the ICC reviewed match referee Mike Procter’s ruling and an Independent Appeals Commissioner was appointed to conduct a fresh hearing.

Harbhajan was, subsequently, cleared of a Level 3.3 offence relating to racist remarks by Justice John Hansen but the off-spinner admitted to using offensive language; Harbhajan was docked 50 per cent of his match fee.

He was targeted by the Aussie crowds during the ODI series but displayed good temperament to bowl well during India’s triumphant ODI campaign. The nation rallied behind Harbhajan.

Now, Harbhajan stares down an uncertain path again.

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