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Wanted to call off Australia tour over ‘Monkeygate’: Tendulkar

Wanted to call off Australia tour over ‘Monkeygate’: Tendulkar
Batting legend Sachin Tendulkar on Wednesday said he defended teammate Harbhajan Singh staunchly during the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ dispute in Australia and his stance ‘almost caused the tour to be called off’.

Tendulkar, speaking at the launch of his autobiography ‘Playing It My Way’ on Wednesday, said Indian team was willing to abandon their 2007-08 Australia tour over the incident and was ready to accept the consequences of such a dramatic move. Harbhajan was banned for three matches by match referee Mike Procter following an altercation with Andrew Symonds during the second Test in

‘I must reiterate we were very serious about the boycott and we were fully prepared to accept the consequences of walking out on the tour, knowing that such an action might have resulted in the ICC banning the Indian team,’ Tendulkar writes in the book. The Indian team were scheduled to play a tour game in Canberra after the second Test but decided ‘to lodge an appeal against the decision and in a gesture of protest also decided not to travel to Canberra’. Sachin said they didn’t agree with Procter’s verdict. ‘... the hearing in Sydney had been something of a farce. That he banned Bhajji for three months seemed to show up which group in his opinion was lying. It is never a pleasant thing to be called a liar and I was extremely angry,’ writes Tendulkar. Tendulkar was batting with the off-spinner when the incident happened and he has given a full account of the incident in his book.
‘Bhajji was actually trying to be civil with some of the Australian players, including Brett Lee, when all hell broke loose. Bhajji had playfully tapped Lee on the back after completing a run and Symonds at mid off took exception to this.’

‘He apparently did not want an opposition player meddling with Lee and once again hurled abuse at Bhajji. Bhajji is an impulsive and passionate individual and it was only a matter of time before he would retaliate, which he soon did.’

Tendulkar blamed Symonds for the things to turn ugly and said that it was Symonds who provoked Harbhajan and not the other way round as the Australians had claimed. Tendulkar thought the ‘matter had ended’ after Harbhajan’s dismissal but was surprised to hear a formal complaint had been lodged against Harbhajan with the allegation of Harbhajan having called Symonds a ‘monkey’, a racial insult.

‘Even so, I still believe the matter would not have been blown so out of proportion if Ponting had discussed it with the captain Anil Kumble, Harbhajan and the Indian team management before reporting the incident to Mike Procter. In turn, Procter could also have handled the matter with a little more sensitivity.’

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