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Harbhajan charged with offensive behaviour

Harbhajan Singh has been summoned by the match referee for his on-field altercation with Andrew Symonds on day three of the second Test in Sydney

Cricinfo staff

The umpires have a word with Harbhajan Singh following his mid-pitch interaction with Andrew Symonds © Getty Images
Harbhajan Singh has been charged with a Level III offence under the ICC Code of Conduct following his on-field altercation with Andrew Symonds on day three of the second Test in Sydney. The two players came face to face while Harbhajan was batting.
Under the code, Harbhajan has been summoned to a hearing with match referee Mike Procter for "using language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person's race, religion, gender, colour, descent, or national or ethic origin".
The charge was laid by match umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor after the close of play following a complaint they received from Australian captain Ricky Ponting.
If found guilty Harbhajan could face a ban of between two and four Tests or four and eight one-dayers. The hearing is scheduled for after close of play on Saturday.
There are some reports that Harbhajan's remarks were racist in nature but the offspinner denied making such comments. "I haven't done anything - we were just talking. It wasn't even sledging - it was just normal talk out on the cricket field. I was concentrating on my batting," he told the Age. "I did not say anything racist. I do not know what is going on. I am here to play well for my country, to bowl well and to win this Test match.
"This is an important game for us and we have a chance to win - that's what I'm focused on."
Television replays showed Harbhajan beckoning Symonds and the two of them having an extended conversation before Matthew Hayden and Sachin Tendulkar, who was batting at the other end, intervened. The two umpires then spoke to Harbhajan, with Mark Benson covering his mouth, probably watchful of the cameras picking up his lip movements. The charge was laid by the umpires following a complaint by Ricky Ponting.
Tendulkar was asked about the incident at the press conference following the day's play and said he thought it was not an issue. "There were a couple of lines exchanged," he said. "It keeps happening virtually every day. As far as I'm concerned [as long as] the game moves on and the players don't cross their limits its fine. It's good for the spectators too. Sometimes it's humorous and sometimes it is funny."
"'You seem to be very friendly with our bowlers' - that's what he [Symonds] said. 'Aren't you trying to be friends with me now? I'm a bowler, as well.' So it was just one of those things."
Symonds has had previous run-ins with the Indian cricketers, particularly with Sreesanth. Earlier this year when Australia toured India for seven ODIs in October, Symonds had slammed India's on-field behaviour and said Harbhajan and Sreesanth had been the major instigators of on-field conflicts between the two sides. Sreesanth, while acting as 12th man during the fourth ODI in Chandigarh, reportedly taunted Symonds as he returned to the pavilion after his dismissal.
Reports from the series also suggested that Symonds had been subjected to racial taunts in the form of monkey chants by spectators in Baroda and Mumbai. Symonds said he hadn't complained about the crowd behaviour at the venues and though he was not bothered at being targeted by partisan spectators, he said he was upset the abuse had been denied by the local authorities.