Harbhajan-Sreesanth row April 28, 2008

BCCI to probe deeper into incident

The BCCI investigation will examine whether Harbhajan Singh was provoked © AFP

The BCCI's investigation into Harbhajan Singh's spat on Friday with Sreesanth, his India team-mate, will examine the background of the incident to find out whether the offspinner was instigated in any manner, the Indian board's probe commissioner has told Cricinfo.

Sudhir Nanavati, the BCCI's appointee to conduct a "preliminary inquiry", said he would take note of the match referee's report which "says that one of the umpires, Amiesh Saheba, had warned Sreesanth for his behaviour after the dismissal of a rival player in that match". A senior lawyer from Ahmedabad, Nanavati is also vice-president of the Gujarat Cricket Association and chairman of the BCCI's finance committee.

However, Nanavati said the Indian Premier League's decision on Monday to ban Harbhajan for the inaugural season and previous records of indiscipline of both players will not be taken into account "to avoid any bias". "I may refer to the procedure adopted by IPL leading up to the verdict, especially the documents and TV footage placed as evidence," he said. "But Monday's decision will not be taken into account and the players' career history, too. I will focus only on this particular case.

"The match referee's report says that one of the umpires, Amiesh Saheba, had warned Sreesanth for his behaviour after the dismissal of a rival player in that match," Nanavati said. "So I will view the events during the match leading up to the incident too, to verify whether there has been any instigation of any sort. In such situations, the background is very important."

Nanavati said he had the authority to summon any player or official associated with the match over the next two weeks till he submits his report to the BCCI. "I will go through the necessary papers associated with the complaint and call both parties - in this case, Harbhajan Singh [Mumbai Indians] and Sreesanth [Kings XI Punjab]. I can also call other players like the captain of the team [Yuvraj Singh for Kings XI Punjab], those who were in the queue as players of both sides were shaking hands when the incident happened, the match referee [Farokh Engineer] and even the umpires [Amiesh Saheba and Aleem Dar]."

Harbhajan was banned by the IPL on Monday after Engineer found the offspinner guilty of slapping Sreesanth after Friday's match in Mohali between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab. Harbhajan was leading the Mumbai franchise in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar

Explaining why he would not be influenced by the IPL's ban on Harbhajan, Nanavati said, "As far as IPL is concerned, it is a trust created by the BCCI. The IPL's contracts with players and associated clauses are different from those signed by BCCI with its contracted players. Secondly, the IPL has made no rules of regulations of its own. In this case, they have only followed what the ICC or BCCI could have done in a similar situation. Today's verdict by the IPL was a result of that.

"Mine is a fact-finding mission. I will only submit my report to the BCCI's disciplinary committee. I can come to the conclusion that Harbhajan is completely innocent or guilty to the extent found by IPL, or more guilty. But action, if any, will be taken by the BCCI panel."

Nanavati will submit his report to the BCCI within the next 15 days, who will refer it to the board's three-man disciplinary panel comprising Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, Shashank Manohar, the BCCI's president-elect and Chirayu Amin, the president of the Baroda Cricket Association.

Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore