Harbhajan cleared of racial abuse charge

Adelaide, January 29:

Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was cleared on Tuesday of racially abusing Australia’s Andrew Symonds, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said.

Harbhajan pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of using abusive language and was fined 50 per cent of his match fee by appeals commissioner John Hansen, ICC spokesman Sami-ul-Hasan said in Adelaide.

The spinner was originally handed a three-Test ban by match referee Mike Procter after being found guilty of calling Symonds, Australia’s only black player, a “monkey” during the Sydney Test earlier this month.

The ICC spokesman said Hansen, a New Zealand High court judge, was convinced Harbhajan was not guilty of a racial slur after a hearing. The appeal decision clears the way for India to continue their tour of Australia where they are due to play a Twenty20 international in Melbourne on Friday before starting a tri-series on Sunday that also features Sri Lanka.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had earlier threatened to abandon the tour if Harbhajan was not cleared of the racial abuse charge. Indian media reports suggested the BCCI and Cricket Australia had worked out a compromise to drop the charges against Harbhajan and salvage the one-day series.

Harbhajan, Tendulkar, Ponting, Symonds, Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden all attended the hearing at the Federal Court in Adelaide. India had initially threatened to pull out of the tour after Harbhajan was banned, but relented when the ICC withdrew controversial umpire Steve Bucknor from the Test series and agreed to hear the bowler’s appeal.

Harbhajan played the final Test pending a decision on his appeal. World champions Australia won the series 2-1.

Following the verdict, Indian media manager MV Sridhar read out a joint statement from Cricket Australia and the BCCI at the Indian team hotel saying that Symonds and Harbhajan had resolved their differences. He also said that both captains were satisfied with the outcome of the hearing.