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January 12, 2008
There is no possibility India will pull out of their tour of Australia even if Harbhajan Singh's three-Test suspension is not lifted, according to the BCCI president Sharad Pawar. The board has given Pawar the sole authority to cancel the rest of the trip and earlier comments attributed to Pawar indicated he may use that power if he was not satisfied with the result of Harbhajan's appeal.
But Pawar now says the tour is not at risk. "There's no question of a pull-out," Pawar told the Hindustan Times. "The series will not be affected. We are focussed on fighting Harbhajan's case, but it all should be within the game.
"We have decided to give full support to Harbhajan, and we will provide all the legal help to fight it out. If that means we have to seek legal assistance from abroad, we will do that."
Pawar also confirmed that he had asked Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan's batting partner at the time of the incident with Andrew Symonds in the Sydney Test, to explain exactly what had happened between the pair. "Sachin reported there was tension and provocation, but there was no question of racist comment," Pawar said. "If Sachin or Sourav [Ganguly] or Rahul [Dravid] or Anil [Kumble] say anything, I believe it 100% and accept it."
Pawar's comments came as Australia's Daily Telegraph reported that India were now expected to argue that Harbhajan had not called Symonds a monkey, as was originally alleged, but instead used a similar-sounding Punjabi term that would be regarded as offensive but not racist. There are also questions over Brad Hogg's alleged use of the word "bastard" as his code-of-conduct case draws nearer.
The Age has reported that both teams submitted a list of racially offensive words prior to the series and "bastard" did not rate a mention. The list was intended to inform ground managers what terms should be prohibited in crowds. However, the paper said that "monkey" was on the list.
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