Bhajji may get off the hook after all

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Old 14-May-2008
Bhajji may get off the hook after all

may 14 2008

The ball might be turning in favour of controversy-prone off spinner Harbhajan Singh with a BCCI-appointed inquiry holding him guilty of striking fellow India player Sreesanth but the view gaining ground among cricket administrators is that the 11-match IPL ban Singh is currently serving might suffice as punishment.

Commissioner Sudhir Nanavati, who examined video footage of the incident, the two bowlers and witnesses, is understood to have concluded that the spinner had committed a "level 4" offence of physical assault but pointed to Singh’s fervent repentance. The report, submitted in sealed cover on Tuesday, will now be considered by BCCI’s disciplinary committee.

While BCCI can impose a fresh ban on the spinner, sources said that the body seemed sympathetic to the argument that Bhajji had been punished enough by way of a ban and loss of Rs 2.9 crore as match fees.

The final decision rests with BCCI chief Sharad Pawar who along with Shashank Manohar and Chirayu Amin comprise the disciplinary committee. The inquiry is understood to have noted Bhajji’s expressions of repentance for his conduct after Mumbai Indians lost to Team Mohali on April 25.

With the footage clearly showing Bhajji striking Sreesanth with the back of his hand, the Nanavati report had little choice but rule the offie guilty.

But the commissioner might have left enough room for reprieving Singh in taking into account the spinner’s pleas that he had deeply regretted the incident.

With Nanavati noting that Singh was "extremely repentant" - the spinner showed the commissioner photos of his camaraderie with the Kerala fast bowler - Bhajji could hope for a lucky break.

His promise to behave himself and the assurance that he was sufficiently chastened could persuade BCCI to give him another chance. Singh has been arguing that losing almost Rs 3 crore was itself a very stiff penalty.

The commissioner also probed Sreesanth’s on-field conduct to assess whether there was any provocation offered. The report took into account the reports of match referee Farokh Engineer and umpire Amiesh Saheba.

While Saheba’s written submission was silent on Sreesanth, Nanavati did probe the umpire on this aspect during the hearings of the commission.

While many in BCCI are shocked that Singh has persisted in being a "repeat offender", the current 11-match ban in Twenty20 matches does add up to the 10 ODIs or five Test suspension that a level four offence can warrant.

A severe offence can even invite a life ban. But the spinner also has the powerful figure of master bat Sachin Tendulkar weighing in for him. The star is heard carefully by BCCI.

Nanavati submitted the 14-page report on the slapping row and Pawar will decide on Wednesday the date of the disciplinary committee meeting to consider the findings and decide the quantum of punishment.

"The 15-day deadline given to Nanavati is over. It will now be given to the disciplinary committee. They will take a decision," BCCI’s chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty said.

Shetty refused to comment on the possible action that could be taken against Bhajji. "It’s not proper for me to comment on it," he said. Nanavati said, "I said before that I was shocked (after seeing the video clip of the incident) but it made my task easy. That task has now been completed."

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