Slapgate stripped Harbhajan bare, says Ponting

Published: Saturday, May 10, 2008, 3:35 [IST]
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Melbourne: Aussie captain Ricky Ponting, who will be leading his team to the West Indies today for a Test series, strongly believes that justice has finally been meted out to Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.

He says that when it comes to the 'Turbanator', his anger still bubbles deep. In an exclusive interview with The Saturday Daily Telegraph, Ponting  suggests that the public can now make their own judgment on the world's worst behaved cricketer.

"The incident (slapgate) was him dealing with a guy that he has probably played 20 Tests with. After this latest issue in India, I think people should be making their own judgments about Harbhajan. He has again done something wrong,'' said Ponting

Ponting says he remains incredulous at how Harbhajan got off with only a slap on the wrists after being charged with racially abusing Andrew Symonds as a "monkey''.

Harbhajan was initially suspended for three Tests, but with India threatening to boycott their tour if he was not cleared, the Turbanator got off on appeal and received only a 50 per cent match fee fine on a lesser charge.

Pressure was brought to bear, certainly by the powerful Indian board, and there were rumours that Ponting's bosses at Cricket Australia (CA) had been part of a deal to ensure Harbhajan walked free. However it may have happened, Ponting is still far from happy.

"It certainly wasn't the outcome that we expected. He ended up being fined 50 per cent of his match fee. As it is, I will cop a 20 or 30 per cent match fee fine most one-day games because I am behind in the over rates."

Reflecting on the other major issue of the last drama-charged summer, Australia's bullyboy image, Ponting admits his team was not blameless.

"Most of us would put our hands up and say we made a few minor errors last year. I think the thing that happened was that every time there was a minor error it was turned into something that was a lot bigger than it was. But the thing that I was happy with was that our cricket was generally pretty good in amongst all the stuff that was going on," he said.

Only a year out from the 2009 Ashes, it is an exciting time for Ponting on both a professional and personal level.

On the cricket front, the world champions are about to embark on a tour of the Caribbean where a new-look Australian side will be pitched into battle against an improving West Indies outfit.

On the home front, wife Rianna is heavily pregnant with the couple's first child and Ponting will be there for the August birth, sandwiched in between the Caribbean tour and a pint-sized one-day series against Bangladesh in Darwin.

"It's a very exciting time for both of us and Rianna is obviously over the moon with everything,'' Ponting said. "The way it works out I will get a bit of time at home just before and just after the birth. The timing is actually spot-on.''

As for the IPL, the smash-and-bash 20-over competition that has the potential to fracture world cricket, Ponting insists it will benefit the game if handled correctly.

"If there is some sort of window carved out or an opportunity for international players to play most years, it won't be detrimental to world cricket if it is handled the right way," he said.


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