Racism row: How the battle was won

The story behind the Harbhajan Singh's racial abuse saga has been interesting.

updated: February 01, 2008 07:34 IST
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After the fourth Test ended in Adelaide on Monday, BCCI former president I S Bindra and media manager Sridhar met Michael Brown and Creagh O'Connor of Cricket Australia and players' counsel Brian Ward to discuss the lowering of the charges against Harbhajan Singh.

Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar were also briefed by Indian counsel VR Manohar on what the stand would be. It was decided late at night that the Australian players would be convinced to soften their stance to one of general abuse as there was no real evidence based on which Harbhajan could be convicted of racial abuse.

The Aussie players were in the dressing room well past midnight, celebrating the series win and Adam Gilchrist's last time with them in the dressing room, and the celebrations had to be interrupted for these meetings.

The Australian players were convinced with some assurance of a public apology from Bhajji and the fact that the charge of general abuse would constitute a one Test ban or two ODI ban. But the Indians refused to get Bhajji to apologise.

The draft - a three-page document signed by Bhajji and Symonds - and corroborated by Ponting, Hayden, Clarke and Gilchrist was signed two hours before the hearing on Tuesday by the Australian players and just before the hearing by Sachin and Bhajji.

The document was prepared later that night and re-drafted a few hours before the hearing. It explained the charges and why the players wanted it downgraded and basically how both parties had agreed it wasn't racial abuse but general abuse, and in the interests of the game they had decided to move on.

Once the hearing began, all the Australians were first examined and cross-examined by the three counsels - for the BCCI, Cricket Australia and the ICC. Sachin was also examined and cross-examined, and he said he didn't hear Harbhajan Singh making any racial abuse.

The only difference between the first hearing and second in terms of evidence was that in the first hearing video footage from Channel 9 was shown. In the second hearing, stump mic evidence was also made available by Channel 9 at the request of the ICC.

However, this didn't show Harbhajan making any racial abuse. In the first hearing, Bhajji had admitted to using foul language when provoked, but they never really went into details of what he actually said.

In the second hearing, VR Manohar said Bhajji said, 'Teri Maa xx', and Harbhajan explained what that meant. Sachin also explained what that meant.

There was a lunch break, after which Sachin left as he was no longer required as a witness.

After the break, Harbhajan was examined and cross-examined by all three counsels for about 45 minutes after which advocates for both sides summed up the case. The judge took about half an hour to make his decision.

It's confirmed the Australian players, Ricky Ponting in particular, are very upset with the outcome of the hearing since they expected at least a two ODI-ban on Harbhajan.

In fact, what is very interesting is that when it came to the final dealings, Cricket Australia was not even dealing directly with the players. It was the counsel for the players Brian Ward who was really involved in getting the players to agree to the lesser charge and to sign the three-page agreement.

It is believed that the players are very upset with the stance that Cricket Australia has adopted with a view to the series.

Top BCCI officials have told NDTV that the way this whole incident, especially the second hearing, has panned out is bound to leave "big scars on the Australian players".

It is learnt that Ponting, Hayden and Symonds were extremely upset with the outcome, Cricket Australia's stance and the way the Indians have behaved. And this could have a definite bearing on the ODI series.

Some of the players, including Sachin and Dhoni, were briefed by Bindra on Tuesday in a special meeting convened in the evening after the hearing that the team should be careful during the ODI series.

Aggression is fine, but there should be absolutely no racial abuse. Sreesanth and Harbhajan, in particular, have been told to be on their guard. Howzatt?