Harbhajan Singh has been temporarily suspended from the Indian Premier League following his spat with Sreesanth at the end of the Mumbai-Punjab game in Mohali on Friday. His suspension, based on new video evidence, is pending an inquiry on Monday into the incident, which means he will not be able to play Mumbai's home match against the Deccan Chargers on Sunday.
"Based on prima facie video evidence, as seen and reviewed by the match adjudicator and referee Farokh Engineer from the tapes provided by Sony & TWI, a decision has been reached to suspend Harbhajan pending the inquiry into the incident on Monday, April 28," Lalit Modi, chairman and commissioner of IPL, said.
The fresh video evidence, Cricinfo has learnt, is based on additional footage of the incident from one of the host broadcaster's 21 cameras at the match. "This footage clearly shows the incident and could be the clinching evidence," a senior BCCI official told Cricinfo. It was this footage that prompted the IPL to swiftly announce Harbhajan's suspension after it was earlier decided that he could play on Sunday, the official said.
The IPL hearing, scheduled to start at 1pm local time, will be held at a hotel in New Delhi and the verdict is expected to be announced by Monday evening. "From King's XI Punjab, the complainant Neil Maxwell [the franchise CEO], Yuvraj Singh, the captain, and Sreesanth will be present, apart from any other witnesses they wish to present. From the Mumbai Indians, Lalchand Rajput, the coach, will be specifically present. Harbhajan and the team manager will also be present," an IPL official said.
Although both players sought to play down the incident on Saturday, the BCCI, which runs IPL, said that it had taken "serious note" of the incident and would initiate a separate probe into it. "My message to Indian players, who have got contractual obligations with the board, is that they have to honour each and every guideline about discipline which the board has communicated to them, and they have accepted and signed," Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, said.
"If somebody is going to violate them, the board will not sit as a silent spectator. The IPL committee, I hope, will take a separate decision," Pawar said.
Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, said the board condemned Harbhajan's behaviour. "He is called upon to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him. And [Harbhajan] has been asked for a clarification by Monday evening [April 28]."
Modi clarified the ICC's conduct norms would be followed for the IPL probe, even though the Twenty20 tournament has been officially tagged as a domestic event. Under the level 4.1 of the ICC rules, physical assault of another player, umpire, referee, official or spectator will result in a ban of between five Tests or 10 one-day internationals up to a life ban for the player or official concerned.
"We are not going to sweep things under the carpet," Engineer said. He also confirmed an official complaint from the Mohali franchise, which owns Kings XI Punjab, had been referred to him by Modi.
"Kings XI Punjab confirms a formal complaint against Harbhajan Singh was submitted to the BCCI earlier today," a Punjab team official said. "The complaint is in relation to Friday's incident following the match against Mumbai Indians, where Harbhajan made an unprovoked attack on Sreesanth. The Kings XI Punjab team and management consider this behaviour unacceptable and against the spirit of the game."
Meanwhile, the Mumbai Indians are hopeful the issue will be resolved amicably. Bought at US$111.9 million, Mumbai are the most expensive of the eight IPL franchises but are yet to win a game. Harbhajan was asked to lead the side after Sachin Tendulkar, their icon player, failed to recover from a groin injury.
Reacting to the news that Harbhajan has been temporarily suspended, a top Mumbai team official said, "The incident involving Harbhajan and Sreesanth of the Kings XI Punjab was most unfortunate. The [IPL] governing council has set up an adjudication panel to inquire into the incident. The Mumbai Indians are confident that the decision taken by the panel will be in the best interests of cricket and the IPL."
Harbhajan and Sreesanth told reporters on Saturday they had "sorted out the issue" and were now like "brothers of one family".