New Delhi, Nov 6: Prime witness to one of the biggest controversies that rocked Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar has finally spoken about the anger and sense of betrayal he felt during the 'Monkeygate scandal' in Australia, revealing that he took the lead in threatening a boycott of the tour at the peak of the furore.
Writing in his autobiography - 'Playing It My Way' - Tendulkar recalled the storm that threatened to blow away the cricketing ties between India and Australia after the hosts complained that all-rounder Andrew Symonds had been racially abused by Harbhajan Singh during the second Test in Sydney. (You can buy the book here)
"Anil Kumble (the then captain) and I took the lead and it was unanimously decided that we would boycott the tour if Bhajji's ban was upheld," Tendulkar writes in the book published by Hachette India. (Photos from the launch)
Detailing the incident as it happened, Tendulkar said Symonds had been trying to provoke Harbhajan for quite a while before the Indian's patience finally ran out during the second Test in Sydney.
"I want to state very clearly that the incident arose because Andrew Symonds had been continually trying to provoke Bhajji and it was inevitable that the two would have an altercation at some point. While walking up to Bhajji to try to calm things down, I heard him say 'Teri maa ki' (Your mother...) to Symonds. It is an expression we often use in north India to vent our anger and to me it was all part of the game," the batting maestro said.
"...That was the start of the controversy that almost caused the tour to be called off. I thought the matter had ended with Bhajji's dismissal and later I was surprised when I was told that the Australians had lodged a formal complaint at the end of that day's play, apparently alleging that Bhajji had called Symonds a 'monkey', which was being treated as a racial insult," he added.
Tendulkar also took a dig at the Australian cricketers' conduct during the high-voltage match, stating that it was "unsportsmanlike".
"Mind you, there is little doubt in my mind that we would have drawn had it not been for what seemed to us to be mistakes by the umpires and some rather unsportsmanlike conduct by a few of the Australian players.