Clarke: ‘DRS issue handled well, Monkeygate shouldn’t have dragged on’

Hailing the joint effort of the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) and Cricket Australia (CA) to resolve the DRS issue to keep the focus on the ongoing Test series between the two countries, former Australian captain Michael Clarke said the bitter ‘Monkeygate’ controversy should not have been dragged on for so long.

Michael Clarke shares a light moment with Sourav Ganguly at the former’s book launch in Kolkata on Tuesday.   -  PTI

Hailing the joint effort of the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) and Cricket Australia (CA) to resolve the DRS issue to keep the focus on the ongoing Test series between the two countries, former Australian captain Michael Clarke said the bitter ‘Monkeygate’ controversy involving Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh should not have been dragged on for so long.

Speaking at the India launch of his book ‘My Story’ at the Fanattic Sports Museum here on Tuesday, Clarke said, “I think now what has happened is both boards and captains have taken a decision; it's good for cricket. Not sure who made the decision, it’s really important as this series has been fantastic to watch. We want this series to be really competitive in Ranchi and Dharamsala.”

“I can guarantee you that Monkeygate will not have its true picture in the book. Because only a Sardarji would know what another Sardar was saying. You may call it Monkeygate, Hanumangate or whatever gate. I was standing next to Harbhajan Singh when he was saying those words. I knew exactly what he meant. Nevertheless, the incident was a bit more than just the word Monkeygate.” -- Sourav Ganguly

Clarke, who has made a mention of the 2008 Monkeygate during the Sydney Test in his autobiography, said the controversy could have been handled pragmatically. “I was very close to Andrew (Symonds) at that time. I asked him if he felt racially vilified. It was not about the racial vilification of Andrew. It should have ended right there.”

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Adding some lighter moments to the topic, former India captain Sourav Ganguly, who was also part of the book launch, said, “I can guarantee you that Monkeygate will not have its true picture in the book. Because only a Sardarji would know what another Sardar was saying. You may call it Monkeygate, Hanumangate or whatever gate. I was standing next to Harbhajan Singh when he was saying those words. I knew exactly what he meant. Nevertheless, the incident was a bit more than just the word Monkeygate.”

Harbhajan was banned for three matches by match referee Mike Procter for racially abusing Symonds but the charges were downgraded and the ban was lifted following an appeal by the BCCI.

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On the Indian team’s performance in the ongoing Test series against Australia, Clarke said, “Indian team hasn’t played as well as they can. They are good players of spin. Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe deserve a lot of credit. Yes, these were spin friendly conditions but they had to execute it.”

Ganguly too credited the Australians for giving India a tough challenge in the first two Tests. “Bangalore could have been a lot better. But in India you expect the ball to turn. Aussies have competed remarkably well. The reason is their spinners have put a lot of pressure on India. The series is still open.”

Sharing his ideas of the legacy of captaincy, Clarke backed Virat Kohli to the hilt. “Kohli has his own style...He has the love, passion, desire that he wants to win at all cost. Virat has the aggression to risk losing for the sake of winning. That's a wonderful quality to have.”

Clarke also admired Kohli for his show of solidarity after the death of Australian cricketer Phil Hughes, who was Clarke's good friend. “It's still very emotional to say–one of the reasons I wrote the book...I have utmost respect for Virat for the way he handled the situation. He came to the funeral. That period is a lot bigger than the game of cricket. India could have said no. they didn't. I will always remember that.”

About his special bonding with India, Clarke—who taught his early lessons of cricket from a coach of Indian origin, made his first class and Test debut against and scored his maiden Test hundred in the same country—said, “I love Indian food...Inside, I am an Indian.”