Harbhajan - Sreesanth row May 7, 2008

BCCI commissioner denies Rajput comments

Harbhajan Singh: what fate awaits? © Getty Images

In the latest twist to the slap-gate controversy involving Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh, the BCCI-appointed commissioner Sudhir Nanavati has denied talking about Lalchand Rajput, the Mumbai Indians' coach, applauding Harbhajan's attack. Nanavati had earlier said he was "shocked" by what he saw on the videotape of the incident.

According to a report in a national daily, Nanavati, after seeing the video footage, felt the slap might have been premeditated and Rajput, who was standing behind Harbhajan when the incident happened, might have known in advance of Harbhajan's actions. However, Nanavati said no one from the newspaper had spoken to him.

Rajput, who was busy getting ready for the team's vital clash against Rajasthan Royals, told Cricinfo that he knew the report was baseless. "I just want to focus on my work," he said.

On Tuesday Nanavati saw the footage along with Lalit Modi, IPL commissioner, and Niranjan Shah, BCCI secretary, at the Cricket Centre in Mumbai. Later Nanavati told newsmen that he was "shocked" to see the incident.

Asked why he was shocked Nanavati said "it was something more than I'd expected". Nananvati also reiterated that Harbhajan can be fined twice despite his 11-match ban imposed by the Faroqh Engineer, the IPL match referee. "He can definitely be penalised twice and I will take all evidence into account before making my report."

Both Harbhajan and Sreesanth would be presenting their case in front of Nanavati in Ahmedabad on Friday. "After that I will prepare my report and send to the BCCI president (Sharad Pawar) next Monday", Nanavati said.

Nanavati said he would certainly check if there was "any provocation or not" that drove Harbhajan to go to the extend of slapping his Indian teammate. "Or I would ask him if it was his own action."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo