Indians defend Harbhajan after new allegations

Published: Monday, March 3, 2008, 12:12 [IST]
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Indian officials have leapt to the defence of Harbhajan Singh, who is under investigation after spectators and photographers claimed he made monkey gestures during the win over Australia.

Harbhajan was crucial in Sunday's victory that gave India a 1-0 lead in the tri-series final, claiming the key wickets of verbal sparring partners Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden.

However, it was then claimed he scratched his armpits with both hands in a similar fashion to Indian fans taunting Symonds last year, and also spat at the crowd.

Harbhajan was suspended for three Tests after January's second Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground for allegedly calling Symonds a monkey, a suspension that was overturned at a subsequent International Cricket Council (ICC) hearing.

Match referee Jeff Crowe, who last week fined Ishant Sharma for a verbal clash with Symonds -- after which India complained of provocative behaviour by the Australians -- is investigating the complaints.

Harbhajan could be accused of making a racist gesture under the ICC's code of conduct, but Indian team manager Bimal Soni condemned the reports.

"I think it is wrong," Soni said. "Nothing has been done like that, they are making a mountain out of a molehill.

"He did nothing. These stories, I do not believe them and I strongly condemn them."

Australian batsman Mike Hussey said he knew nothing of the allegations, but added that he was sick of all the controversies of a testing summer.

"I think the Australian and Indian public have had enough of all the controversy," he said. "We just want to concentrate on the cricket."

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