A tale of two bad boys

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

EVEN as the Indians were recovering from the five-wicket defeat against the South Africans, the ICC match referee Jeff Crowe asked off-spinner Harbhajan Singh to attend a hearing after he was reported for gesturing wildly to South African batsman Ashwell Prince. Harbhajan, after dismissing Prince, showed him the way to the pavilion. The third umpire Ivaturi Sivaram reported the off-spinner's misbehaviour to the two field umpires K. Hariharan and Daryl Harper, who, in turn, reported to Crowe.

Harbhajan pleaded guilty and he was very apologetic to the field umpires and to Prince immediately after the incident, Crowe informed the media after the hearing, which was held in the lobby of the team hotel. Harbhajan's breach of Level 1.6 of the Code of Conduct for players normally invokes a fine of 50 per cent of the match fees but because the Indian bowler pleaded guilty, it was reduced to 25 per cent of the fee. Crowe also reminded that Harbhajan would be under observation and any further instances of breach could incur a ban for him.

Significantly, the ICC match referee made it clear that no player from the South African team was reported for any indiscipline or abuse. The question arose since pace bowler Andre Nel was seen telling something to some of the Indian batsmen. "I cannot comment on what transpired on the field," said Crowe.

Then, did Andre Nel get away with his gestures? "No," asserts Sivaram. The issue was referred to the field umpires who, in turn, cautioned the South African pace bowler. Nel apologised for staring into Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and muttering words, which were not audible to the third umpire who does not have access to television's audio facility.