Harbhajan's antics are unacceptable
By: Khalid A-H Ansari
It was very touching to read that Harbhajan Singh, heroic man of the match in last Sunday's IPL game against Deccan Chargers, has dedicated his performance to the Ambanis.|
"Before I start to write," 'Bhajji' said in his column in the Times of India yesterday, "I have to dedicate my performance... to my franchise owners Mukesh bhai and Neeta bhabhi (Ambani). To me today they are like family, they are a pillar of support and encouragement".
All very charming, except for one little fly in the ointment: The irrepressible Sardar made no mention of his condemnable behaviour towards Chargers' batsman T Suman, for which he was fined $15,000 by match referee Gundappa Vishwanath for a Level 1 offence (article 2.1.4) relating to "excessively audible or repetitious swearing".
Harbhajan wrote with justifiable pride: "In the last few years I have taken my batting very seriously and have improved on my temperament and an eye on the right ball. With the help of seniors I have really worked hard on this aspect and results are there for all to see."
True, true, all too true as the record books show, except for the "temperament" aspect.
Leave aside his behaviour towards opponents in Test and one-day cricket, which have earned him opprobrium from umpires, match referees, the media and fans in India and abroad, Harbhajan's raffish behaviour in the three editions of IPL has been notably consistent.
The first year saw him earn the wrath of match referee Farokh Engineer for slapping Kings XI pace bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, which resulted in his being banned from the remainder of the league, with enormous loss of income as a consequence.
Last year in South Africa, the puckish Sardar, conspicuously well-mannered off the field, especially towards his elders, lost his cool in a TV interview towards his best friend Sachin Tendulkar, generally considered a holy cow in the game he reigns over, for the shoddy manner in which he was handled as bowling spearhead.
Harbhajan told the media in Mumbai yesterday that he "got excited" after dismissing T Suman, who had given the off-spinner rough treatment in South Africa last year, caught and bowled for 15.
The redoubtable off-spinner's constant refrain that his "aggression" helps his performance is patently misconceived. If anything, it is self-defeating.
In an implausible attempt at watering down the gravity of the situation (it did not take any great expertise on the part of television viewers to lip-read Harbhajan's choice expletives), Mumbai Indians' director of cricket TA Sekhar, described the incident as a "heat-of-the-moment act", and, according to TOI, asked that it "not be made an issue".
Sekhar deftly dodged leading questions about who will pay the $15,000 fine â the 'Turbanator' or his (Ambani) "family, the pillars of his support and encouragement."
As I see it, the illustrious "family" has an obligation to ensure that repeated dissolute behaviour of the kind exhibited by their star player does not tarnish their personal or business reputation, which in any event, is constantly under the microscope.
As his "owners", the Ambanis also have a duty to ensure that the maverick genius does not bring the bish-bash-bosh T20 game into disrepute while under their tutelage.
It's very well to indulge an amicable child prodigy, it's another to spare the rod, spoil him rotten and let him endanger the family's image.
That said, let me clarify that I am an unabashed admirer of the amiable Harbhajan as person, as well as of his prodigious talent as bowler and, now, batsman.
But, although I love 'Bhajji', the phenomenal entertainer, I could do without his wanton shenanigans.
Harbhajan bids fair to become the best off-spin bowler India has produced â and that is no mean achievement when you take into consideration the likes of the legendary Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan.
But handsome is as handsome does.
If he hopes to achieve greatness, the likeable 'Bhajji' would do well to keep his self-confessed, but ballistic 'adrenalin' in check â the way his best mate and role model par excellence Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar does.