Match Referee spares Harbhajan, Gambhir for on-field spat


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Volatile Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh and his belligerent teammate Gautam Gambhir escaped punishment after ICC Match Referee Andy Pycroft took a light view of their on-field spats with Pakistani players during Saturday night's Asia Cup tie.

Harbhajan had a scrap with Shoaib Akhtar in the high-voltage match, while Gambhir featured in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Pakistani stumper Kamran Akmal, prompting captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to separate him and drag him away.

"The ICC match referee had a chat with the players but decided not to charge them as he felt it was a heat of the moment incident," Indian team manager Ranjib Biswal said.

Pycroft, during the pep talk, advised the players to keep their emotions under control when they are on the field.

Harbhajan took two wickets in the match but more importantly hit a six off the penultimate ball to script India's sensational victory in the match.

Only in the previous over, having missed the last two balls, Harbhajan and Shoaib were seen exchanging words. After he hit the winning runs, a charged-up Harbhajan took off his helmet and roared in celebration, turning towards Shoaib, who made a gesture, seemingly asking the batsman to leave the field.

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi also played down the incident.

"They are friends with each other and love each other. I think that brought them so close together," Afridi quipped.

Incidentally, both Harbhajan and Shoaib had a friendly chat after the game, suggesting that all was well between them.

Gambhir, chastised by the ICC for bringing the game into disrepute in the recent past, reacted to a barb from Akmal leading to a chest-to-chest confrontation before Dhoni sidled away his most consistent batsman from the hot scene.

Later, Dhoni said such tense match between arch-rivals was bound to let some sparks flying.

"If you ask me if it (sledging) happened or not, I would say let us leave it. India-Pakistan games are always intense with both wanting to win and so there is bound to be some spark in the middle," Dhoni said.