Harbhajan ban lifted after racial abuse not proven

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The Independent Online

The India captain, Anil Kumble, has called Harbhajan Singh's successful appeal against his ban for racial abuse a relief for the sport.

The off-spinner was cleared of making a racist comment to Australia's Andrew Symonds at a hearing in Adelaide. He had been found guilty of racially abusing Symonds by the International Cricket Council referee Mike Procter after allegedly directing a "monkey" insult at the all-rounder during the second Test of the four-match series at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

But the 27-year-old's three-Test ban was overturned after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of abusive language. He was instead fined 50 per cent of his match fee.

The match umpires, Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor, had brought the charge against Harbhajan after receiving a complaint from the Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, on day three of the Sydney Test when the spinner was batting with Sachin Tendulkar.

Kumble said: "It's time to move on. This matter was lingering on for the last two weeks, although cricket was being played, but now the matter is settled.

"I'm really happy and relieved, not just for Harbhajan, but for cricket overall. It's time to start concentrating on the game."

The New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen ruled there was not sufficient evidence to prove an offence under section 3.3 of the ICC Code of Conduct, which relates to racially insulting behaviour, but decided Harbhajan should be charged with a section 2.8 offence.

The maximum penalty for a level two offence is a one-Test ban or a suspension of two one-day internationals, but the India bowler's punishment is at the lowest end of the scale.

Cricket Australia and the Board of Control for Cricket in India released a joint statement endorsing the appeal decision.

"Controversy surrounding Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds on day three of the Sydney Test has come to a constructive conclusion," the statement read.

"Singh and Symonds said they had resolved the issue between them in Sydney and now intend to move on. They said they intended to make no further comment on the issue and intended to get on with the game of cricket which is most important to them.

"Both captains also said they were satisfied with the outcome between their players and they looked forward to the cricket ahead."

Following Australia's 2-1 victory in the Test series, the sides next face each other in a Twenty20 match in Melbourne next month.