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Rediff.com  » Sports » Just get everyone to shut up!

Just get everyone to shut up!

February 01, 2008 20:55 IST

It was a pretty mature judgment given in the Harbhajan case, better than what I ever expected from an ICC organized operation. Probably this is where the sense of having a professional conduct business comes through; you can call a donkey a match referee but that doesn't mean it will do anything else except bray.

Justice Hansen has actually taken note of what can be proven against what is alleged and that is something Proctor failed to differentiate between. All said and done, only Harbhajan knows whether he did utter the alleged word whatever the Tendulkars, Symonds, Haydens and Clarkes may claim to have heard. Say "maa ki" and "monkey" ten times one after the other, put in a factor for accents, and only Michael Clarke might still be able to say confidently that he heard it perfectly, and for that alone, I consider him to truly be Ponting's heir apparent.

It was amusing to note the defense because in addition to sounding like "monkey", the phrase meant something that ironically the Australians seem to be very comfortable with and could have no objection to either on moral or aesthetic grounds. That bit of genius apart, it was as objectionable as anything the Australians come up with every day of the year, and once the crime (real or cover-up for something worse) having being admitted, Hansen was swift to hand out punishment.

Hansen's verdict strikes me of common sense, both in terms of his indictment of Symonds's role in the affair and in admitting that his own given punishment was less severe than it would have been had he been given a more complete dossier on players' previous records which, according to ICC rules, plays a part in determining their current penalties. A judge can only give his judgment based on the evidence before him, no more and no less, and Hansen's judgment mirrors that reasoning. A judge who goes by the book has to go by the set rules, though my personal opinion is that official dossiers reflect poorly on the Asian countries as opposed to non-Asians simply because ICC officials are swifter to punish Asians than non-Asians. Bring out all the ICC dossiers over the years, run all the tapes of cricket recordings over the years, and the dossier lie would be easily exposed. For me, I would believe a recording over a dossier any day. However, ICC rules consider dossiers to have the final say and unless that is challenged, we just have to accept what the rules say. So Harbhajan can indeed consider himself to be lucky!

Where I would have liked to see more justice would be in Hansen handing out an equal token of punishment to Symonds. All said and done, you can only speculate on the correctness of what Tendulkar, Clarke and Hayden heard or claim to have heard. What is beyond speculation is that the whole thing started because Symonds insisted in shoving his un-required presence into a light banter between Harbhajan and Brett Lee, in fact what seems from all accounts to be more of a compliment from the batsman to the bowler than anything objectionable. Symonds's statement at the hearing that a cricket field was no place for showing friendliness to opponents is so amazing in its foolishness that it might actually have saved him some dollars in fines. After all, brainlessness as opposed to racial vilification is not yet considered a crime to be punished.

To those nitpicking on Hansen's judgment, whether it be from the Indian media (I particularly hate Times Now TV right now which is touching depths in Headline making) for Bhajji getting a fine and Symonds not, or the Australian media hollering about India's money power having won the battle, I say this. For the Indians, Hansen's admonishment of Symonds - he hoped that Symonds' line of thinking was not shared by too many sportsmen else it would be a sad day for cricket - should be enough for it is probably the first time that people are not chest thumping Australia's toughness in a situation like this but are mocking it as foolishness. The immense coverage this incident has got will do much more to slow down (end might be too optimistic) Australian boorishness on the field, and for me, that will do for starters. The source of the problem is this unpleasantness the Australians insist on bringing onto the field and the sooner this rowdiness is exposed for what it is, the better it is. For the Australians, the message is simpler - whatever you sow has to be reaped. Australia is already the best in the world in cricketing terms; and since they do not have the millstone of having the BCCI run their show, they have the chance of learning from the incident and cleaning up some things which would make cricket shine, not just Cricket Australia. Next time when a clean Australian makes a charge, it will be given due consideration as opposed to a team consisting of the likes of Ponting and Clarke whose word being taken today can easily be admissible as proof of insanity.

No one is going to gain anything from Symonds being fined. You can ban Harbhajan too but even that will not solve the real problem, which despite the media hype is not about whether Bhajji called Symonds a monkey or not. When sledging stops, there will be no question of whether Harbhajan said "maa ki" or "monkey" because either will cause penalties and bans galore to rain down on the player and a few of those will do more to bring discipline to the sport than any number of code of conducts will. Right now, the problem mainly is that "maa ki" (or ba*tard or moth*r f*cker) is really considered ok and once you give these sportsmen an inch they will definitely try to take a mile. A few months later, we could be discussing the same problem with the altered dialogue being whether one cricketer called another one "nigger" or was just wondering out aloud about the itch inside his "Nikkar" ("shorts" in Hindi). Why get into all that when everything can be nipped in the bud by just getting everyone to shut up? Definitely sounds easier to me than calling up judges, setting up hearings and taking statements under oath.

The ICC CEO's chair is open for recruitment as the incumbent is speedily approaching his dump-by date. Hansen might not really be a bad choice for the hot seat; at least he looks to have common sense which the ICC is hugely in need of.

The author is a cricket enthusiast and blogs at http://beerchipsandcricket.blogspot.com and http://cricketblog.aol.in/bloggers/sriram-ranganathan/
Sriram Ranganathan