A “Slap”-Stick Comedy?

The Australians must be laughing up their sleeves. Literally. Indian cricket just descended into the lowest depths of behaviour that has never been witnessed before. A team-mate slapping another one. That has to be the final nail in the coffin of absolute ignominy. When Harbhajan Singh “allegedly” slapped S. Sreesanth, he dragged Indian cricket into the morass from which it has been struggling to pull itself. The sequence of events is still pretty unclear. Apparently Sreesanth, the wild child that he is, kept hurling “provocative” remarks at Bhajji’s Mumbai team that was losing to Mohali in the IPL match. The Turbanator was standing in as the captain for the Mumbai team in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar. And after the defeat, when Sreesanth commented “hard luck”, Bhajji apparently lost his cool and in a moment of insanity, slapped the Kerala paceman across his face. That was not all. As Mohali was celebrating its triumph, Sreesanth could be seen weeping copiously, wiping away tears from his face like a small child. And just when the media got wind of the situation, it was a total Roman holiday for them. Pictures of Sreesanth crying dominated every news channel and newspaper the next day, making it the front page news, with speculations rife about what had actually happened. Bhajji refused to comment about it initially. Sreesanth said that he had been slapped by Harbhajan, who had then apologised to him in the dressing-room. Later, however, both the players tried their hardest to downplay the incident, Sreesanth even calling it a “normal” thing that “is a part of the game”. Excuse me? Cricket is a sport. And nowhere in the game is physically abusing a player considered normal. Neither is it a part of the game. It is a total anomaly, something that happens in the rarest of rare cases. Puritans of the sport are highly appalled at the turn of events. What made Bhajji, who has already been hauled over the coals numerous times by the ICC, slap his own team-mate?

There is some truth that Sreesanth must have made some provocative remarks. He is the sort of player who has the uncanny ability to get underneath the opposition’s skin. And quite literally so. He has been repeatedly asked to calm down by various senior players. But Sreesanth calls it passion for the game. Some say he is needlessly courting controversies while some say that he is a player who likes drawing attention from every quarter. No one can be sure of the real reason. But the BCCI will surely ask Sreesanth as well to explain his conduct in the matter, considering the image he has built for himself over they years. Untamed aggression and untrammelled brashness will not help either of them.

Bhajji has been suspended until the BCCI calls a meeting on Monday and asks him to justify his highly-condemnable action. Maybe he will be fined. Maybe he will be punished or banned for sometime. Maybe it will be the same for Sreesanth also. Till then, it is Andrew Symonds who must be mulling over what had happened to him in the infamous “Monkey-gate” scandal. And even Matthew Hayden, who has shared some ‘food for thought’ with the two firebrands of the Indian team. Even the international arena will be watching with bated breath the new sights being witnessed everyday in the Indian cricketing firmament. And thanking their plentiful stars that such stuff does not happen in their backyard.

Moonmoon Ghosh