Stump mic set to add new twist in Bhajji hearing

Updated: 01 February 2008 06:32 IST

The Harbhajan Singh ban issue took a new twist with the ICC-appointed commissioner saying that "additional evidence" could be admissible in the hearin


The racial remark controversy surrounding Harbhajan Singh took an intriguing turn on Monday with the ICC appointed commissioner deciding to take into account a hitherto undisclosed stump microphone recording during the hearing of the off-spinner's appeal against a three-Test ban for having allegedly called Australia's Andrew Symonds a "monkey".

The Indians are opposed to the introduction of the recording which never figured when Mike Procter, match referee in the Sydney Test, heard the Australian complaint against Harbhajan and banned him for three matches.

"There may be some additional evidence, such as the transcript available from the stump microphone, which was not available to Mr (Mike) Procter," said Justice John Hansen, the Commissioner, while outlining the procedure for the two-day hearing starting here tomorrow.

The Indian board, however, is set to oppose the move.

"The evidence could be tampered, it could be doctored. We wouldn't allow this so-called fresh evidence to surface after so many days," a highly placed Indian board official said.

Senior BCCI official I S Bindra has been here since last week and the former Board president spent evenings with Cricket Australia President Craig O'Connor in order to thrash out the contentious issue.

Justice Hansen's remarks give a new twist to the whole saga with now the possibility of some evidence being available to the Commissioner which could put Harbhajan and even Sachin Tendulkar in the dock.

The version of Tendulkar, batting partner of Harbhajan during the incident, supporting the off-spinner was not taken into account by Procter.

If indeed some fresh evidence emerges which weakens Harbhajan's case and upholds the ban, India might pull out of the forthcoming tri-series here, which has Sri Lanka as the third team.

If Justice Hansen overrules the Indians and goes ahead with his ruling, the visitors would be left with no option to go to the International Court of Justice or Court of Arbitration.

Justice Hansen's statement, however, also opened a window of opportunity. His procedures also affirm that all the witnesses will give a fresh hearing, a "re-hearing", which could allow the involved parties to change, or readjust, the positions they took in Sydney.

Indian board, nevertheless, has been shown in poor light by not arranging any physical legal presence while all this hell has broken loose.

It is believed that the Indians were badly hurt in the case which was argued by the team management and players on behalf of Harbhajan in Sydney.

Instead of countering Symonds' claims of racist attack, the Indian think-tank kept raising side issues of Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting's conduct in the game, which weakened their case and made Procter believe that the Australians were probably right in claiming racist abuse.

In the entire episode, the Indians were laid low by the absence of any legal help.

No such help was present in Sydney, nor one is going to be present here even though VR Manohar, father of BCCI president-elect Shashank Manohar, would offer his guidance in a tele-conference from India.

Indian board, as well as the players, have made it known that they would boycott the tour if the ban as well as the alleged racist remark attributed to Harbhajan is upheld.

The cricket circle in Adelaide though is abuzz with the word that an "evidence" does exist which puts Harbhajan, and even Tendulkar, in poor light.

The hearing, to be held in private at the Federal Court here from tomorrow morning, will give an opportunity to both the counsels to cross-examine the witnesses though it being a sporting disciplinary hearing, the evidence will not be on oath.

Justice Hansen declared that soon after he arrived at a decision, he would forward his ruling to Harbhajan, Procter and the chief executive of the ICC.

If Harbhajan is proven guilty, and the Indian board carries out its threat, the damages for abandoning the tour could amount to 2.3 million Australian dollars as penalty which to the cash rich BCCI would amount to peanuts.

Topics : Cricket Sreesanth
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