A day after the Indian Premier League (IPL) banned Harbhajan Singh for slapping Sreesanth after a match in Mohali on Friday, it has emerged that the behaviour of both players had come under the scanner during the recent South Africa series in India, too.
Harbhajan had to apologise to Ashwell Prince, the South African batsman, for abusing him during the third Test of that series in Kanpur last month and the South Africans "lost a lot of respect for Sreesanth" when he went after AB de Villiers, Mickey Arthur, the South Africa coach, told Cricinfo.
Asked about the IPL incident, Arthur said he was not surprised because "when there are two such volatile players on the field, anything can happen."
Harbhajan was banned on Monday from the first season of the IPL after Farokh Engineer, the match referee, found him guilty of slapping Sreesanth. The BCCI has initiated a separate probe into the incident.
"At the end of the day, we are not squealers," Arthur said. "We strongly believe that what happens on the field stays on it. Besides, we were very happy with the general spirit in which the series was played in, and we left with very pleasant memories of the tour, especially the cricket that was played."
However, Arthur admitted that the behaviour of Harbhajan and Sreesanth during the India series "was not great" and said that the South Africans took up the Kanpur incident because Prince felt very strongly about it. "There was an incident in Kanpur. There was a hearing by the match referee (Roshan Mahanama) during which Harbhajan apologised to Prince. It was settled and we were happy with the apology. I am not 100 per cent sure what was said. But Ashwell felt very strongly about it at that time and that's why we took it up," Arthur said.
"Sreesanth was just Sreesanth. Perhaps our players lost a lot of respect for him on the tour. He constantly abused AB de Villiers and it was very personal. But considering the general spirit in which the series was played, we didn't feel strongly enough to complain," he said.
South Africa's three-Test tour of India ended in a 1-1 draw after the visitors won the second Test in Ahmedabad by an innings and 90 runs before India came back strongly to level the series in Kanpur.