Harbhajan banned for rest of IPL, to lose Rs 2.67 crores
Wielding the axe, the IPL on Monday banned temperamental spinner Harbhajan Singh for the rest of the Twenty20 tournament for slapping S Sreesanth after he pleaded guilty, a punishment that will cost him a whopping Rs 2.67 crores.
There was no provocation: Engineer
The 27-year-old player, who has a notorious reputation for on-field skirmishes, was handed down the punishment under which he would forfeit match fees from the third match onwards by Match Referee and adjudicator Farokh Engineer after a two-hour hearing.
Sreesanth, who was at the receiving end of Harbhajan's temper after Friday's IPL match in Mohali, was also warned against aggressive on-field behaviour and told that his conduct would be taken seriously, IPL Commissioner and Chairman Lalit Modi told a press conference after the hearing in the presence of Engineer and the two players.
The punishment for the off-spinner came on a day after the BCCI appointed a Commissioner to go into his fracas with Sreesanth in a separate disciplinary hearing ordered by it.
"After looking into the video footage in the presence of Sreesanth, complainant Neil Maxwell (Kings XI Punjab CEO), Harbhajan and Lalchand Rajput, (Mumbai Indians coach), and managers of both sides and considering the submissions from both sides and in view of Harbhajan's admission Match Referee Farokh Engineer found him guilty of level 4.2 offence.
"Accordingly, he (Harbhajan) has been banned for the rest of the IPL matches besides 100 per cent fine on his match fees," Modi said.
Mumbai Indians manager Lalchand Rajput was fined 50 per cent of the match fee for not stopping the off-spinner's attack on Sreesanth playing for Kings XI Punjab.
The banned will serve as a huge setback for Mumbai Indians, which had lost all the four matches so far and has still 10 league matches to play.
Harbhajan, who was bought by Mukesh Ambani's franchise for a whopping Rs 3.40 crore during the landmark auction, faces further sanction from the Board, which has also initiated a separate disciplinary process against him for the same offence.
The Board appointed advocate Sudhir Nanavati as Commissioner to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident. He would submit his report to President Sharad Pawar within 15 days.
Modi said Harbhajan's action amounted to level 4.2 offence under the ICC Code of Conduct that relates to physically assaulting a fellow player, match official or spectators.
As for the ICC Code of Conduct, Level 4.2 offence leads to a maximum punishment of life ban or a minimum of 5 Tests or 10 ODIs.
About Rajput, the IPL Commissioner said he was found guilty of level 2 offence that pertained to acting against the spirit of the game. He was behind Harbhajan and he did not try to rein in the bowler.
"The video footage of the incident showed Harbhajan shaking hands with Punjab players. Sreesanth was third in the line but instead of shaking hands, Harbhajan actually slapped him. Rajput was following Harbhajan down the line but he went on shaking hands with other players," Modi said.
Harbhajan said "all I want to say is whatever happened and whatever I did was grossly wrong. Sreesanth is like my brother. We have played together and we will play together again.
"I got punishment for whatever I did but the Board has always treated me like its child and I hope they will continue to support me. When I come back to play again, I will bring smiles to your faces," he said.
After the press conference, Engineer got Harbhajan and Sreesanth to shake hands and hug each other with smile on their faces. "We are all human beings and mistakes do happen," Engineer said.
Engineer said that a "very fair" hearing was given to all the sides. "No track record has been taken into account because what actually happened is lot more serious than you guys think".
He had good words for both Harbhajan and Sreesanth. He said Sreesanth, who is such a lovely boy, remained quiet most of the time during the hearing.