There are cricketers and then there are character cricketers". Harbhajan Singh would certainly fall into the second category. There can be no doubt. His range of idiosyncrasies range from the absurd to the ridiculous and on various platforms too. There have been rivalries more spoken about than others, where Bhajji" as we Indians refer to him as or as Harby" as the west knows him, has been involved. But for now, we"ll just take the Indian Premier League.
Version 1 of the IPL was dramatic for the hero of this piece. Destiny scripted that I would be the live telecast TV producer for the match that featured the infamous slapgate" episode, and was therefore privy to viewing the video a number of times as copies were to be made for various ICC personnel. One thing came across on viewing it and that was the diluted viciousness of the backhanded flick on the face of drama king Sreesanth. On the outset let me make it clear that one is not taking sides. Hitting another player is not on, and Bhajji paid the price but the drama that ensued put Sreesanth in a light that will always radiate darkness in the form of hypocrisy and pretence. Much was said, and much was left unsaid, but Bhajji was projected as the villain of the piece. Right or wrong, will not be debated, for there"s always two ways of looking at such happenings.
Fast-forward to the current version of the IPL. The Mumbai Indians started the campaign well with 6 wins out of 7 (as one keys in this article). Harbhajan Singh as most know is Sachin"s (yes, God to many) close friend and was totally a choice of the master to be part of the Mumbai team. And in the recent most encounter with defending champions the Deccan Chargers, Bhajji borrowed Tendulkar"s bat and showed just how when he"s pumped up inside, he can make a floodgate of a difference. The 49 runs in 18 balls with 8 fours and 2 sixes was honestly unreal. You just had to sit back and watch the turbaned entertainer give it his all!
With the ball in this the 6th game for the Mumbai Indians, Bhajji scalped 3 wickets and most dramatically the wicket of opposition captain Adam Gilchrist in the very first over of the innings. All this was very commendable but what was not pretty was the abuse that followed a wicket. Yes, it"s perhaps natural for a bowler to vent out frustration in the way of a hard look, one or two foul mouthed words, but one could lip read clearly the volley of the choicest insults that were hurled at Deccan Chargers batsman Tirumalasetti Suman, and honestly there was no need for that outburst. Match Referee Gundappa Vishwanath rightly reprimanded and fined the off spinner $15,ooo for this aggressive act as Bhajji pleaded guilty to a Level 1 offence (Article 2.1.4), which relates to "excessively audible or repetitious swearing."
Having followed the game and been closely associated with cricket for years now as an admirer and television broadcaster, one realizes that Bhajji and controversy are not such strange bedfellows, more so now than ever before. One hopes that the various gates" (read monkeygate, slapgate) literally close on the cricketer who has given the nation a lot to cheer about on the field with his talent of off-spinning the opposition out of gear and at times baffling with the bat.
May the madness continue in Bhajjiland" but purely for cricketainment purposes. On that 22 yard stage where the fabulous game of cricket unfolds in various formats! Long live the game, and the man who plays it with his heart more than the mind (in Bhajji"s case perhaps this is a safe statement to make).