Harbhajan-Sreesanth row May 10, 2008

Both players keen to move on - BCCI commissioner

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Sreesanth arrives in Ahmedabad for a meeting with Sudhir Nanavati © AFP
 

Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth offered to share a room, had lunch together and told Sudhir Nanavati, the BCCI's probe commissioner, during his hearing on Friday into their controversial face-off after an Indian Premier League match last month, that they would prefer to forget the incident and move on from there.

"I could see that this came directly from their hearts," Nanavati told Cricinfo. "Officials have told me that Harbhajan and Sreesanth offered to share a hotel room as they were scheduled to be in Ahmedabad for the hearing for only a few hours. But they were put up in separate rooms as per BCCI norms. Sreesanth told me later that they had lunch together."

Nanavati said that both indicated separately that they would want to move on from the incident. "They looked like they have gotten over the incident and they said were keen to forget that such a thing ever happened. But the law will have to take its course, otherwise no offence will go punished," he said.

The BCCI had appointed Nanavati, a senior lawyer, to compile a fact-finding report into the controversial incident on April 25 in Mohali when Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth, his India team-mate and IPL rival, after a match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab. The board's disciplinary panel will review the report before deciding whether Harbhajan, who was leading the Mumbai team in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, should be punished separately after the IPL banned him for the first season.

Nanavati said that it was clear from the evidence that the incident happened and what he would now have to study are the factors leading to it. "Most of what happened is very clear and it will take me just a couple of hours to prepare my report, which I will do on Sunday. I will basically have to apply my mind to why the incident happened. There are some other questions I will attempt to answer: why was only Sreesanth slapped and not anyone else? Why did the incident happen immediately after that match?"

Nanavati, who is also a senior BCCI official, admitted that the last 15 days has been the most "high-profile period" of his life and revealed that he had got over a hundred phone calls and emails from Indian cricket fans, most of whom he didn't know at all. "Some of them were very sentimental, and I can say that over 80% of them wanted me to forgive Harbhajan. Of course, few of them knew that my job was not to deliver a verdict but simply hold a mirror to the incident," he said.

But personally, Nanavati said, he would cherish the fact that he didn't get a single phone call from any BCCI official to discuss his investigation or from any former or current player. "The other thing I will remember is the delight on the faces of my grandchildren when they saw me on TV almost every day."

Nanavati is expected to submit his findings to Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, on Monday.

Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore