Harbhajan cleared of racial abuse

India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has been cleared of racial-abuse charges at a hearing in Australia, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said on Tuesday.

“He has been cleared—the racial charge has been dropped against him,” BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said.

International Cricket Council arbitrator John Hansen, a New Zealand High Court Judge, revoked the three-Test ban on Harbhajan following an appeals hearing in Adelaide on Tuesday, Shah said.

“Harbhajan has now only been punished for using obscene language and will be fined 50% of his match fees,” he said.

Harbhajan was handed a three-Test ban by match referee Mike Procter after being found guilty of racially abusing Australia’s Andrew Symonds during the acrimonious Sydney Test earlier this month.

Harbhajan appealed Procter’s decision and Hansen arrived at his decision on the first day of a scheduled two-day appeal hearing.

India, who ended a Test series in Australia on Monday, will play a Twenty20 international against the hosts in Melbourne on Friday before starting a tri-series on Sunday that also features Sri Lanka.

“The one-day series will go on as scheduled,” said Shah.

Hansen was expected to announce his decision later on Tuesday.

India had threatened on Tuesday to abandon the tour of Australia if Harbhajan was not cleared of the racial-abuse charges.

“If a clean chit is not given to Harbhajan, the Indian board’s decision is to call the team home,” BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi had told reporters.

Indian media reports suggested the BCCI and Cricket Australia had worked out a compromise to drop the charges against Harbhajan and salvage the one-day series.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting and senior Indian player Sachin Tendulkar reportedly wrote letters to Hansen asking him to downgrade the charges.

BCCI president Sharad Pawar refused to elaborate on the pull-out threat but stressed the racial charges against Harbhajan were “unacceptable.”

“Indians are not racist and do not believe in racism,” said Pawar, a senior federal minister. “We are completely behind our team in Australia. The charge against Harbhajan is unacceptable.”

India had initially threatened to pull out of the tour after Harbhajan was banned, but relented when the ICC withdrew controversial umpire Steve Bucknor from the Test series and agreed to hear the bowler’s appeal.

Harbhajan played the final Test pending a decision on his appeal.
World champions Australia won the series 2-1.—AFP

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