'It's confirmed. The duo are being sent back'
Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul will be sent home on the first available flight from Australia as the Board of Control for Cricket in India suspended them Friday for their outrage-evoking comments on women, hours after the duo's on-field leader Virat Kohli expressed his disapproval.
The under-fire players have been suspended pending an inquiry into their sexist comments on a TV show, ruling them out of the three-match ODI series against Australia, beginning Saturday in Sydney.
They were omitted from the line-up for the opening match in Sydney but now it seems they won't be in the mix even for the limited-overs tour of New Zealand, beginning January 23.
"Both Pandya and Rahul have been suspended pending an inquiry," the Committee of Administrators (CoA) chairman Vinod Rai said.
"It's confirmed. The duo are being sent back. If they can book tickets then tomorrow they will be leaving (for India) or latest by day after," a senior BCCI official said.
He added that at this point their chances of making the squad for the New Zealand tour is also 'bleak'.
The suspension letter, as per clause 41 (6) of BCCI, states: "CoA suspends Pandya, Rahul from participating in 'any match or function or event or activity that is authorized, organized, sanctioned, recognized or supported in any way by the BCCI, the ICC or any State Association, until final adjudication of the matter'."
The 'Koffee with Karan' episode featuring the cricketers has since been taken down by the channel's online platform.
On the show, Pandya had boasted about hooking up with multiple women and being open about it with his parents. Rahul was, however, a shade more restrained in his responses on relationships and women.
A source in the BCCI said the two will be issued fresh show cause notices before a formal enquiry begins.
"Whether it will be an internal committee of the BCCI or an ad hoc ombudsman who will conduct an inquiry, is yet to be ascertained," the official said.
Pandya has regretted his comments twice since the show went on air on Sunday -- first on his official Twitter page and then in response to the BCCI show cause notice on Wednesday.
Rahul, on the other hand, is yet to react to the controversy.
The decision to hand them suspensions came after Rai's CoA colleague Diana Edulji recommended the same till further action against the two. This was after the BCCI's legal team refused to declare the comments a violation of the code of conduct.
The copy of the legal opinion, in possession of PTI, states: "We feel that present matter doesn't fall under the ambit of Code of Conduct and procedure of Code of Conduct can't be invoked in present circumstances."
Edulji had initially suggested a two-match suspension for the duo but referred the matter to the legal cell after Vinod Rai agreed with her and recommended the same.
"It is imperative that players be put under suspension till further course of action is decided for this misconduct as was done in case of (BCCI) CEO (Rahul Johri) when he was sent on leave on sexual harassment matter," read Edulji's response to the legal opinion which is in possession of PTI.
Their remarks on the show were also condemned by India captain Virat Kohli, who called them inappropriate but said he was not too stressed about the possibility of a ban on the all-rounder.
"...it's good that we have someone like (Ravindra) Jadeja who can do the all-rounder's role if a scenario like that occurs," Kohli said.
Days after their historic maiden Test series triumph, Kohli asserted that the side does not stand by the "individual opinions", which have triggered a social media storm.
In case the two are brought back from Australia, the likes of Rishabh Pant and Manish Pandey will be in contention to be their replacements. While Pandya was a certainty in the playing XI, an out-of-form Rahul was not in contention to play on Saturday.
It is speculated that the BCCI might bar players from appearing on entertainment shows owing to the ongoing furore.