Sydney: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his Australian counterpart Michael Clarke believe the Indian Premier League (IPL) has brought cricketers of the two countries together and reduced on-field tensions -- and that should prevent a Monkeygate-like fracas during the current Test series.
As India and Australia gear up for the 100th Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) starting on Tuesday, the two principal actors of the 2008 Monkeygate -- Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh and Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds -- are not playing in the series and both are now curiously sharing the Mumbai Indians dressing room in the IPL.
"The IPL has helped reduce tension between the two teams and, irrespective of what happened in the past, our relationship with Indian players is stronger than ever before," Clarke wrote in his Daily Telegraph column last week.
"Both teams love to play tough cricket and we have had some wonderful matches over the years. I am confident that lines won't be crossed, but in case they do, players would have to reckon with harsh punishments, including those handed out by the ICC and Cricket Australia," he said.
Dhoni was also circumspect about Sydney 2008.
"A few individuals did make mistakes at that point in time. It's something that we don't really want to do as professional cricketers," Dhoni had said last week.
"There's a lot at stake. People look up to us. So we'll try to keep it controversy-free. But still it's important to make it interesting," the India skipper said.
The cricketing world was pushed into turmoil as Harbhajan was charged with racial abuse of Symonds during the second Test in Sydney while India felt they were cheated in the Sydney Test as several decisions went against them. Things came to such a pass that India even threatened to call off the series and it was saved only after the International Cricket Council (ICC) removed umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson from the remaining two matches.
Harbhajan was handed a three-Test ban by match referee Mike Procter. The charge was levelled by the on-field umpires, Bucknor and Benson, on a complaint from Australia captain Ricky Ponting that Harbhajan had called Symonds a monkey.
Harbhajan's appeal was heard three weeks later by ICC appeals commissioner and New Zealand justice John Hansen. Several Australian cricketers testified against Harbhajan, who was strongly backed by Tendulkar. Both Harbhajan and Tendulkar were batting together when the incident took place.
Hansen, however, found the racism charge unproven. Harbhajan was instead charged with a Level 2.8 offence - abuse and insult not amounting to racism - to which he pleaded guilty and was fined 50 per cent of his match fees.