Justice Hansen's report on the Harbhajan Singh appeal case arrived from the ICC in the form of a 22-page document yesterday evening. The Australian has converted it to one very long HTML page - but beware, it contains:
- Frequent Coarse Language (in English and Punjabi),
- Violence (Harbhajan Singh slapping Brett Lee's buttock),
- Sexual References (see Frequent Coarse Language and Violence),
- Horror (the ICC's disciplinary records database),
- Adult Themes (discussion of the appropriate standard of proof with reference to "The Queen on the application of Dr Harish Doshi v the Southend-On-Sea Primary Care Trust"), and
- Not-At-All-Adult-Themes (see Frequent Coarse Language, Violence, and Horror).
Without getting my head around all of Justice Hansen's background discussion, I was impressed with his findings and agree with his decision. The critical element of the Judge's decision was that, whatever Harbhajan Singh said to Andrew Symonds, and whatever Symonds may have understood/misunderstood Harbhajan as saying, Justice Hansen decided, based upon all the evidence, that Symonds could not have taken offence to the extent of a racial nature.
Observations of note that I have made from the report:
- Andrew Symonds appears to have been the instigator of the on-field incident, after Harbhajan patted Lee on the bum at the end of the over - a common-enough and perfectly innocent complimentary gesture that takes place on the field of play all the time
- Symonds and the other Australian fielders heard on the stumpcam audio seemed to harbour a genuine belief that Harbhajan had called Symonds a "monkey" in the past
- Could it be that the Australians had mis-heard Harbhajan's Punjabi obscenity on those previous occasions? Could it be that their interpretation of events had been shaped by the "monkey" taunting of Symonds by the crowd during the Indian ODI series last year?
- The letter that Ponting and Tendulkar forwarded to the Judge before the hearing turned out to be nothing more than a bland "statement of facts", which Justice Hansen correctly built upon by cross-examining most of the signatories.
- The letter doesn't constitute, in my view, an attempt to pervert the course of justice. There is some possibility (floated by the Aussie media) that some of the Australian players were made to take part in the document under duress, but nothing to indicate that the letter constitutes anything other a genuine submission of additional evidence. The letter seems, indeed, to have little or no bearing on the final outcome.
- Justice Hansen has no criticism for Match Referee Mike Procter other than to suggest that he should have had his hearing recorded by means of transcript rather than just minutes.
Not coming out so squeaky clean is the back office of the ICC. Some unbelievably shoddy record-keeping meant that Harbhajan's full disciplinary history with the ICC was not available to Justice Hansen before he handed down his final verdict. (See paras 66 and 67 of Hansen's report.)
Interestingly, however, the Judge would not have varied the 50% match fee penalty imposed for the revised Clause 2.8 charge (regarding the Punjabi obscenity), except for an incident in November 2001, which Justice Hansen considered more serious.
November 2001. Remember that game?
It would have been the height of irony if Harbhajan Singh was given a, say, one-match ban for this incident on the weight of a charge imposed by Mike Denness on that crazy day in 2001.
There's a lot more to be explored about reaction this week from the media (particularly the Australian press) and by various chieftains of the BCCI. So, too, the ICC's administrative cock-up.
It will probably be the weekend before I get the time for more dissection.