MUMBAI: The Indian cricket board on Wednesday banned Harbhajan Singh for five One-Day Internationals for slapping S Sreesanth and warned the temperamental spinner of a life ban for any further misconduct on his part.
A day after BCCI-appointed commissioner Sudhir Nanavati submitted a 14-page report to the board, the disciplinary committee, headed by president Sharad Pawar imposed the ban, which means that the beleaguered spinner will miss the forthcoming tri-series in Bangladesh and two matches of the Asia Cup in Pakistan.
The 27-year-old Harbhajan, who had already been banned from the ongoing Indian Premier League and fined a whopping Rs three crore match fee for the level 4 offence, was summoned by the disciplinary committee to hear his views on the incident which happened after an IPL match in Mohali on April 25.
“The committee accordingly decided to ban Harbhajan Singh for five One-Day Internationals, and observed that any further instance of misconduct will invoke a life-ban,” the BCCI said in a statement after the committee’s hearing.
“The committee invoked Rule 3.2.1 of the BCCI Regulations for Players, Team officials, Managers, Umpires and Administrators. Under this provision, the maximum punishment that can be meted out to a player is a ban up to a maximum of 5 ODIs and/or 3 Test matches,” Pawar said.
He said a copy of the report was given to Harbhajan who was heard by the committee before taking a final decision on the quantum of punishment.
“The player admitted his guilt in the concerned matter. He prayed for leniency and assured the committee that there would not be any misconduct on his part in the future,” the board said.
Pawar and other members of the committee, president-elect Shashank Manohar and vice-president Chirayu Amin, met at the Cricket Centre to discuss Nanavati’s report on the issue.
With the ban coming into effect immediately, the off-spinner will have to sit out of the tri-series in Bangladesh to be held from June 8-14 and the first two matches of the Asia Cup scheduled to be held in Pakistan from June 24-July 6.
The board also told Sreesanth to mend his way. “The disciplinary committee also considered Sreesanth. He has to improve a lot and if he is does something similar in future, he will be dealt with firm hand,” board secretary Niranjan Shah said.
Asked how Harbhajan reacted to his ban, Shah said, “He is okay, he knows that he is guilty and the BCCI has also given a warning that if he gets involved in any further misconduct, he will be banned for life. “He has learnt his lesson, he knows exactly where he stands,” he said.
Shah refused to call it an exemplary punishment but made it clear that the board would not brook any such indiscipline.
“It is sure that if any indiscipline is seen on the field the board would be very strict. It won’t allow itself to be taken for granted,” he asserted.
Harbhajan slapped his national team-mate Sreesanth at the conclusion of King’s XI Punjab’s IPL match against Mumbai Indians in Mohali on April 25.
Harbhajan, who was bought by Mukesh Ambani’s franchise for a whopping Rs 3.40 crore during the landmark auction, was subsequently banned from the remainder of the IPL, apart from losing nearly Rs 3 crore of match fee, for breaching the ICC’s Level 4.2 Code of Conduct.
A level 4 offence results in a maximum punishment of a life ban or a minimum of 5 Tests or 10 ODI ban. But in this case, the board went by its own regulation and invoked Rule 3.2.1 of the BCCI regulations.
Sreesanth, who was at the receiving end of Harbhajan’s wrath, was also warned against aggressive on-field behaviour and told that his conduct would be taken seriously.
Mumbai Indians manager Lalchand Rajput was fined 50 per cent of the match fee for not stopping the off-spinner’s attack on Sreesanth playing for Kings XI Punjab.
The BCCI, under whose jurisdiction IPL is being held, decided to conduct a separate probe into the incident by appointing Nanavati who viewed a video recording of the incident, summoned the warring players to Ahmedabad and conducted the probe.
Nanavati also considered statements by IPL match referee Farokh Engineer and umpire Amish Saheba while preparing his report. Nanavati described the slapping incident as “shocking” after viewing the video recording of the sordid episode, one of the worst-ever in the history of Indian cricket, in the BCCI office last week.