Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds celebrating a wicket during Mumbai Indians’ game against Chennai Super Kings © AFP
Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds celebrating a wicket during Mumbai Indians’ game against Chennai Super Kings © AFP


By Madan Mohan


A significant incident occurred in last Friday’s match between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Superkings. The incident was captured in still photographs and carried in the print media for the sake of posterity and it deserves to be. As Harbhajan Singh ran through Chennai Super Kings’s (CSK) lower order, his teammate Andrew Symonds was caught on camera celebrating Harbhajan’s wickets with all the enthusiasm he would have reserved for matches played in Australian colours.


It reminded me of something the seasoned politician Digvijay Singh once said on a television show.  As the television anchor probed him about Congress politics in a bid to corner him, he gave up all pretence of wriggling himself out with clever retorts and said matter-of-factly that in politics, there are no permanent friends. So, it seems, is the case in the IPL. There are no permanent friends, nor enemies in the IPL.


Not to be outdone, diehard IPL-converts have pointed to the incident as an example of the positive aspects of IPL in that it breaks barriers and fosters friendships (and also makes a guy slap his teammate, if I may add). It apparently brought a lump to some throats to witness all the love between Harbhajan and Symonds.


To that suggestion, I shall pose a simple question: if you were dark-skinned and say somebody racially abused you in Europe, would you easily forgive that person? Now, what if you tried to obtain justice through the legal system and found to your dismay that the guy was politically connected and there was nothing you could do about even if you were wrong?  Would you not feel bitter about it? And if the guy gifted you a mansion in Vienna to buy your silence, would you then call a press conference and hug him for the cameras?


I am not for a moment calling into question Justice Hansen’s verdict on the incident in the IndiaAustralia Test match at Sydney, 2008. No, I have no intention of reigniting the debate over what really happened then. But we have reason to believe that Symonds considers himself wronged and cheated out of justice. That is at least the impression his statements in interviews after the incident give. He has also expressed disappointment at the lack of support from his teammates and from his cricket board in the aftermath of the verdict.  It seems, however, that the sting of racial abuse was not so strong as to resist the allure of big bucks.


Symonds was picked up by Mumbai Indians. Harbhajan is a senior player in their ranks and the team is led by Sachin Tendulkar, the man who staunchly defended Harbhajan in the wake of allegations that he had called Symonds a monkey.


None of this seems to have deterred Symonds from accepting the assignment. Not only that, he gave the media more than ample fodder by, for all appearances, whole heartedly celebrating Harbhajan’s wickets. It evidently doesn’t matter if you have to rub shoulders with the man who abused you and got away with it so long as you both get to hog the limelight in the IPL.


It was said at the time Symonds was signed up by Mumbai Indians that things that happen on the field aren’t taken seriously and the events of Sydney were a long time ago. It beggars belief why then was a complaint filed against Harbhajan and a legal battle fought out if it wasn’t taken seriously. It obviously was, because Symonds’s statements on the incident have been consistent.


But maybe, he should be asked about Sydney now as he basks in the glory of victory with the rest of Mumbai Indians. And he will perhaps answer the question with Digvijay-esque brazenness. It’s all over mate, what are you going on about?


(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake.)