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New Bad Boys Of World Cricket
……Harbhajan, Akhtar Under The Microscope

By Orin Davidson
May 1st, 2008
Cricket is supposed to be a non-contact sport but Harbhajan Singh and Shoaib Akhtar are doing their best to transform it into something akin to boxing.

Both now have a common rap sheet for hitting teammates and in so doing have labeled themselves the most prominent bad boys of the contemporary game.

After their latest infractions, Singh and Akhtar have now both put their careers in serious jeopardy.

Following hot on the heels of Akhtar’s five-year ban by Pakistan, for violating his probation, initially imposed for hitting teammate Mohamed Asif with a bat, Singh trod once more on the professional ethics of the sport by being kicked out of the India Premier League (IPL) for slapping Sree Sreesanth during the competition last Friday.

And he likely will have more music to face as his action is likely to lead to more sanctions from international competition as the Board for Cricket Control of India (BCCI) will be forced to penalize the player as a contracted member of the national team.

Both players are exceptionally talented individuals in their respective crafts but unlike similar types of the past, the unpleasant side of their characters seem more overwhelming than the positive.

How else would you explain Singh’s attack on Sreesanth only three months after landing in hot water in similar circumstances?

He was found guilty of racially abusing Andrew Symonds in the Australian’s own backyard in a continuing trend of actions that have annoyed players from rival teams.

From all appearances Harbhajan is not one of the best liked players on the world scene if other players’ reaction to him is used as a measuring rod.

Matthew Hayden referred to him as an obnoxious weed and he was often been made a target of bouncers by West Indian bowlers more than once on tours there, for obvious comments that would’ve elicited anger from the opposition.

It is one thing to be outspoken - speaking one’s mind on issues that bother players ought to be accepted, as the stress and strain of contemporary professional sport often builds short fuses.

But Harbhajan has done that and worse especially within the last few months, which could see his career spiraling into a resounding crash.

To racially insult a player, especially one of black origin on the field, (never mind the toning down of the charge in Australia), is in the gutter of despicable acts in world sport.

Now, the same BCCI which led a campaign of outrage at the decision of match referee Mike Proctor’s and forced the spineless ICC under CEO Malcolm Speed, into reducing the penalty of a three Test match ban, into a fine, finds itself embarrassed by the same player.

No player in the history of cricket has ever been guilty of publicly assaulting another player and in this case a fellow India teammate, never mind the incident was spurred during a domestic game involving opposing clubs.

And you get the impression Harbhajan feels empowered to behave as he likes given the BCCI’s fierce protection of players whether right of wrong, in recent years.

And given the fact that Harbhajan acted without immediate provocation as he reportedly slapped Sreesanth during the now trendy post match cordialities, it says a lot about the seriousness of the act.

Sreesanth is no saint either, as he is another of the type who seems not to understand the boundaries of aggression and decency when competing as a fast bowler.

In recent times his antics on the field while bowling have been overdone. Screaming at opponents and in one case barging England captain Michael Vaughn, would make him a target for retaliation.

He obviously offended Harbhajan during that Mumbia vs Punjab game and now the rest of the story is history.

Similarly Akhtar has made himself into another loose cannon who does not understand decency of behavior as an international player.

Apart from being found guilty of hitting Asif, stories have circulated of him physically abusing his coach the late Bob Woolmer. And when you add his use of illegal steroids and his constant ranting against the Pakistan Board, he would easily make the list of modern day cricket bad boy. Nevertheless his five- year ban for talking out about his feelings on being demoted by the board, thus losing income, is a ridiculous cause for probation breaking.

The PCB subsequently put its foot in its mouth by suggesting Akhtar be allowed to play overseas in the IPL. If he is not good enough for Pakistan cricket why should be he good enough for others?

Over the years Brian Lara and Shane Warne, two of the greatest players of their time, have had stories circulating, accusing them of boorish behavior.

Warne was even banned for using a banned drug amid tales of non- role model behavior off the field while Lara is accused of similar acts and also of ill treating teammates and in one case his team trainer.

If one is to go by the “where there is smoke fire exists” theory, they would easily make any bad boy list.

But Singh and Akhtar are miles ahead of them atop of that list.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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