Cricket Controversy 2008
During IPL 1, on April 26, 2008, Harbhajan – an Indian cricketer gave Sreesanth the most expensive slap. It was a new record in cricket history
In monetary terms, the slap cost Bhajji approximately ` 2.6 Crores, or about $ 550,000 in match fees. He was banned for the remainder of IPL 1, 11 matches, extendable to 13 matches, if Mumbai Indians reached the semi-final and final.
This is apart from the cost Mumbai Indians would have to pay by losing their top bowler.
The incident occurred when the players of the two teams ‘greeted’ one another after Punjab beat Mumbai in a close match; Mumbai were led by Harbhajan.
There were many versions of the incident. Both Harbhajan and Sreesanth gave a watered down version that would have us believe that they’d actually had a friendly chat and that Sreesanth had actually shed tears of joy (see video).
Eye-witnesses gave different versions depending on the player they supported. Some blamed Sreesanth for having taunted Harbhajan after Mumbai lost the match.
Harbhajan was said to have warned Sreesanth, earlier, not to sledge Mumbai’s players during the match.
Many felt that the two loose cannons of Indian cricket had had it coming to them, and were surprised that Sreesanth had been let off with only a warning.
After the incident, Punjab skipper Yuvraj Singh, in the news recently for the water boy incident in Sri Lanka, had a word with Bhajji. Bhajji also had the rare opportunity of speaking to other cricket bigwigs, such as ICC Commissioner, Lalit Modi, and ICC’s principal advisor, IS Bindra.
When asked about the incident, in a post-match press conference, Bhajji said that he preferred to ‘talk about cricket’.
Yuvraj confirmed that an ‘ugly’incident had indeed happened, although he didn’t reveal much. But he was clearly tempted to share some juicy details with the press but his coach Tom Moody intervened before Yuvraj could let any cats out of the proverbial bag.
Yuvi said that Bhajji had met Sreesanth in the Punjab dressing room, and that he presumed they had cleared the air between them.
Former Mumbai and India keeper, Farokh Engineer, the match referee fined Harbhajan 100% of his match fees for the day. The Mumbai coach, Lalchand Rajput lost 50% of his fee, for not having intervened during the ‘incident’.
Later, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah revealed that the board had served Bhajji a show cause notice, to which the player had since replied. But like everybody else connected with the affair, Shah said he could not “reveal the contents”.
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Suresh Iyer is an avid sports fan and blogger.