Speed admits ICC blunder in Harbhajan case

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008, 8:50 [IST]
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Players should review their behaviour: Speed

Sydney: International Cricket Council chief Malcolm Speed said it accepted the blame for the administrative blunder that enabled Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh to escape a stiffer penalty in his racial abuse case.

Harbhajan's three-Test suspension for allegedly racially abusing Australian Andrew Symonds during the contentious second Test in Sydney was overturned at a code of conduct appeals hearing in Adelaide on Tuesday.

At the hearing, the charge was downgraded to a level two charge of using abusive language and Harbhajan subsequently pleaded guilty, with appeals commisioner Justice John Hansen fining the spinner half of his match fee.

However, Hansen then revealed he would have handed out a stiffer penalty, including a possible suspension, had he been aware of Harbhajan's full record.

Hansen was only informed of one prior misdemeanour by the spinner, with three other previous offences overlooked by the ICC, including a one-match suspended sentence for showing dissent to an umpire in 2001.

Speed issued a written statement on Thursday that acknowledged the ICC had been at fault.

"It is very unfortunate that human error led to Justice Hansen not having the full history of Harbhajan's previous Code of Conduct breaches and the ICC accepts responsibility for this mistake," Speed said.

Hansen said the suspended sentence did not show up in the ICC records because the incident was logged under another player's name, while the other two priors were omitted because of a database issue and human error.

He said on Wednesday that Harbhajan had been very fortunate and admitted he considered increasing the penalty when informed of the oversight.

"Singh can feel fortunate he has reaped the benefit of these database and human errors," he said.

In making his statement, Speed also took the opportunity to warn players to lift their standards of behaviour.

"One thing that has come out of this is the need for players to review their on-field behaviour," Speed said.

"In this case, it is clear that Harbhajan verbally abused an opponent having been provoked to do so by that opponent.

"This is not acceptable behaviour on the cricket field.

"I expect all players to use this as a wake-up call that on-field behaviour must improve."

India play Australian in a Twenty20 match at the MCG on Friday, followed by the triangular one-day series that also includes Sri Lanka.

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