Harbhajan banned for rest of IPL season

Harbhajan Singh has been banned for the remainder of the current IPL season for his altercation with Sreesanth at the end of Mumbai Indians' match against Kings XI Punjab on Friday. The ban is for 11 matches, including last Sunday's game, extendable to 13 if Mumbai progress to the semi-final and final.

Sreesanth was let off with a warning after video evidence showed Harbhajan slapped him without any provocation. The duo embraced at the end of the hearing after Harbhajan offered an apology in front of the cameras. Harbhajan will not be appealing against the ban.

"The referee studied video tapes of the incident and found the assault by Harbhajan was totally unprovoked. The footage exactly showed that Harbhajan went down the line, wishing all the players, shaking hands with a few players," said Lalit Modi, the commissioner of the IPL who is also a vice-president of the BCCI. "Sreesanth was the third player that he met. Instead of shaking his hand he actually slapped him and continued down the line, shaking hands with the other players."

Farokh Engineer, the former Indian wicketkeeper who was the match referee, fined Harbhajan 100% of his match fee for Friday's game. He will now be paid only for the first two matches of the IPL.

Lalchand Rajput, the coach of the Mumbai side, has also been found guilty of a level 2 offence and fined 50% of his match fee. "Rajput was right behind Harbhajan when the incident took place," said Modi. "He didn't take any step to restrain him. He has been fined 50% of his match fee."

The ban on Harbhajan comes as a jolt for Mumbai, who have lost all four games so far in the tournament. "We don't have a say in matter as far as the ban is concerned," said Tushar Pania, head of corporate communications at Reliance Industries Limited, who paid US$111.9 million for the Mumbai franchise. "But it does have an impact on the team now especially considering Sachin Tendulkar is injured."

Harbhajan also faces separate action from the Indian board, which has asked him to explain, "as a contracted player", his role in the incident which came to light after Sreesanth broke down in front of the cameras.

Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, said on Monday that Sudhir Nanavati, a lawyer, has been appointed to conduct a "preliminary inquiry" and submit a report "within 15 days" to Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, who will refer the findings to the board's disciplinary committee for possible action.

Shah also confirmed that Harbhajan had replied to the board's show-cause notice. "He has given his reply, but I cannot reveal its contents."