Tendulkar throws light on ‘monkeygate’ scandal

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:08 am IST

Published - November 06, 2014 02:48 am IST - New Delhi:

Prime witness to one of the biggest controversies that rocked Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar has finally spoken about the anger and sense of betrayal he felt during the ‘Monkeygate scandal’ in Australia.

Writing in his autobiography —— ‘Playing It My Way’ —— Tendulkar wrote “Anil Kumble (the then captain) and I took the lead and it was unanimously decided that we would boycott the tour if Bhajji’s ban was upheld.

“I want to state very clearly that the incident arose because Andrew Symonds had been continually trying to provoke Bhajji and it was inevitable that the two would have an altercation at some point. While walking up to Bhajji to try to calm things down, I heard him say ‘Teri maa ki’ (Your mother...) to Symonds. It is an expression we often use in north India to vent our anger and to me it was all part of the game,” the batting maestro said.

“I thought the matter had ended with Bhajji’s dismissal and later I was surprised when I was told that the Australians had lodged a formal complaint at the end of that day’s play, apparently alleging that Bhajji had called Symonds a ‘monkey’, which was being treated as a racial insult,” he added.

After the game Tendulkar said match referee Mike Procter took an exceptionally long time to conduct a hearing necessitated by Australia’s complaint against Harbhajan.

“While it was distressing to hear that Symonds felt he had been racially abused, it was equally distressing to observe what Bhajji was going through. As far as we were concerned, he had retaliated in the face of provocation, which was par for the course in an Australia—India cricket match.

But he did not racially abuse another cricketer,” he recalled.

“The hearing was conducted rather strangely, it seemed to me, with the Australians and Indians asked to testify separately, without the other side being present in the room.

This certainly didn’t improve the trust between the Indian and Australian players. I was the principal witness because I was batting at the other end from Bhajji and I recounted the incident to the match referee in detail,” he said.

Tendulkar goes on to say that Procter left him seething in anger by claiming that only one group had told the truth during the hearing.

Tendulkar said the ban imposed on Harbhajan left the team furious and players did not wish to continue the tour if the sanction was not revoked.

“I must reiterate that we were very serious about the boycott. If Bhajji’s ban was upheld, it would mean an acceptance of guilt and imply that Bhajji had racially abused Symonds, which he most certainly had not.

“We were fully prepared to accept the consequences of walking out of a tour, knowing that such an action might have resulted in the ICC banning the Indian team. The issue was now bigger than just Bhajji. Indians all over the world felt slighted and we felt it was our responsibility to stand up for our cause,” he said.

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