Andrew Symonds reveals drinking spiral, insists Harbhajan Singh racially abused him
The infamous 'monkeygate' scandal at the SCG in 2008 soured relations between India and Australia. @Getty

Former Australia allrounder Andrew Symonds has opened up on his battles with alcohol in the aftermath of the infamous “monkeygate” scandal a decade ago, and maintains that India offspinner Harbhajan Singh called him a monkey “probably two or three times”.

During a Test match between India and Australia in Sydney in January 2008, Symonds had accused Harbhajan of calling him a “monkey”. Tensions heated up between the two teams on the field, and Harbhajan was handed a three-Test ban from match referee Mike Procter under the suspicion that he had uttered a racist remark to Symonds. The ban was overturned after a hearing, with Harbhajan denying any wrongdoing against the backdrop of the BCCI threatening to leave the tour.

Symonds on Friday spoke of how he took to drinking heavily after the SCG controversy.

“From that moment on that was my downhill slide,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “I started to drink heavily as a result of it and my life was starting to dissolve around me. I felt the pressure and the weight of dragging those mates of mine into the cauldron of this cesspit that should never have got to this sort of point where we felt guilty. I was dealing with it the wrong way. I felt guilty that I’d dragged my mates into something I didn’t think they deserved to be involved in.”

According to Symonds, the SCG Test was not the first time Harbhajan had abused him.

“I’d spoken to Harbhajan the series before in India, he’d called me a monkey before in India,” he said. “I went into their dressing room and said, ‘Can I speak to Harbhajan for a minute outside please?’ So he came outside and I said, ‘Look, the name-calling’s got to stop or else it’s going to get out of hand.'”

Symonds has a history alcohol-related indiscretions and had his Australia contract cancelled in 2009 after he was sent home from the ICC World Twenty20 following another incident. At time, Symonds claimed that he had been diagnosed as a binge-drinker.

Earlier this year, Procter revealed why Sachin Tendulkar’s stance during the Monkeygate episode had disappointed him.