Racial row: Bhajji likely to escape ban

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/h/harbhajan_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Embroiled in a race row, Harbhajan Singh will appear for a disciplinary hearing on Sunday amid indications that the off-spinner will escape a ban.

Updated: January 07, 2008 10:21 IST
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Embroiled in a race row with Australia's Andrew Symonds, Harbhajan Singh will appear for a disciplinary hearing on Sunday amid indications that the controversial Indian off-spinner will escape a ban due to lack of evidence.

Five Australian players will testify in the disciplinary hearing against Harbhajan Singh for racial abuse charges.

While Team India have come out in Harbhajan's defence, Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist have decided to testify that he made racist remarks against Symonds on Day 3 of the Sydney Test.

The hearing has been postponed to Sunday after India asked for more time to respond to the charges against the spinner.

International Cricket Council (ICC) has roped in an eminent British lawyer Nigel Peters to advice Match Referee Mike Procter and the two teams on procedural matters.

It's a level 3 offence in the International Cricket Council's code of conduct and if found guilty, Harbhajan could face a ban for the next few matches.

Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Chetan Chauhan will also attend the hearing.

Tendulkar, who was in the middle when the alleged racial spat between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds broke out, is likely to testify in favour of the Indian off-spinner during the hearing.

Meanwhile, in what comes as a respite for Harbhajan Singh, Mike Procter said on Saturday that the match umpires did not hear any alleged racial abuse of Australia's Andrew Symonds.

A complaint was lodged by Australian skipper Ricky Ponting to match umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor.

Procter said neither of the on-field officials were aware of the heated exchange between Harbhajan and Symonds during Friday's final session.

"The umpires did not hear anything, they did not know anything about it," he told Channel Nine television.

Harbhajan has denied he racially abused Symonds.

"I did not say anything racist. I do not know what is going on," he told Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

"I haven't done anything, we were just talking. It wasn't even sledging, it was just normal talk out on the cricket field. I was concentrating on my batting."

In the wake of the allegations Indian great Sunil Gavaskar accused the Australian side of double standards following Ponting's complaint.

Gavaskar has been a fierce critic of the behaviour of Ponting's men in the past and felt the Australians could dish it out but not take it in return.

"If the umpires have not heard it, then what has happened to the famous Australian saying of 'what happens on the field stays on the field'," Gavaskar said on television.

"In this instance if the umpires have not heard anything why is this line not being used for this particular incident.

"Is it only when the Australians give it to somebody (that) what happens on the field stays on the field but when they get it. Has it got to be reported? Doesn't it stay on the field?"

Former Australian captain Mark Taylor said he feared Ponting had opened a can of worms and potential tit-for-tat citings by rival captains over on-field behaviour.

"I think Ricky has opened up Pandora's box in terms of this," Taylor said.

"The Australians play tough cricket and make the odd chirp, if this goes any further I am sure there will be other times when Ricky Ponting will be on the other side of the ledger when the Australian team make the chirp."

Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist accused Pakistan counterpart Rashid Latif of racial abuse during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, but Latif was cleared because of a lack of evidence.

Australian Darren Lehmann was the first player to be banned for racial abuse when he was outed for five one-dayers over a racial remark in earshot of the Sri Lankan dressing room during the 2002/03 season. (With Agency inputs)

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