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January 5, 2008
Mike Procter, the match referee, has delayed Harbhajan Singh's code-of-conduct hearing, originally scheduled for Saturday, until after the conclusion of the ongoing Test in Sydney on Sunday. Harbhajan was charged with a level-three offence under the ICC Code of Conduct following his on-field altercation with Andrew Symonds on day three of the second Test.
"At the request of the India team manager and under the circumstances I have exercised my discretionary powers to postpone the code-of-conduct hearing until the conclusion of this Test match," Procter said. "I am satisfied that with a further 24 hours India will have time to sufficiently prepare for this hearing."
The possibility of lawyers getting involved cannot be ruled out. The charge was laid by match umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor after the close of play after they received a complaint from the Australia captain Ricky Ponting.
"They reported to me that there was a breach of conduct, reported to them by Ponting," Procter said while talking to Nine. "It's a level three, which is pretty serious. The umpires didn't hear anything, they didn't know anything about it. I'm the adjudicator at the hearing, there will be witnesses called. The end result is what I want to achieve. To answer your question, yes lawyers could be involved."
The incident occurred while Harbhajan was batting and Matthew Hayden walked past Harbhajan after his confrontation with Symonds but did not reveal any details of the accusations or the conversation. "We believe we have a very strong case," Hayden said at the close of the fourth day.
"It's a scenario none of us want to be in, we love the game and we hope we can move forward. Andrew's a very strong character who had a great, tough upbringing in Charters Towers [in north Queensland] and we all love him and Australia love him."
Meanwhile, the ICC have asked British barrister Nigel Peters QC to advise Procter during the hearing. Talking to PTI, an ICC spokesperson said that Peters, who is also an elected committee member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, had assisted them in the past.
If found guilty, Harbhajan could face a ban of between two and four Tests or four and eight one-day internationals. The hearing will take place after the conclusion of play on Sunday.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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