Awkward.
Awkward.

Monkeygate: The 'villain' behind the saga breaks silence

 

THE match referee at the centre of cricket's infamous "Monkeygate" saga has broken his silence in an account that is damning towards Cricket Australia's role in the ugly chapter.

South African official Mike Procter has finally addressed his own role in the controversy in a new autobiography almost 10-years since the 2007-08 Border-Gavaskar Trophy series in Australia threatened to tear the game apart.

Procter's own version of events supports former Australian captain Ricky Ponting's own declarations that Cricket Australia folded to appease the Board Of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI) - and hung Andrew Symonds out to dry.

Ponting famously made an official complaint to Procter during the New Years Test at the SCG in 2008 which resulted in Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh being charged under the ICC code of conduct with racial abuse towards Symonds.

Harbhajan was alleged to have called Symonds a "monkey" while batting with Sachin Tendulkar.

It came after Indian supporters were spotted making monkey gestures and shouting abuse at Symonds during an Australian tour of the Sub-Continent.

Singh is alleged to have joined in with the crowd as they shouted abuse at the Aussie allrounder.

Procter's new revelations about the saga, contained in his book Caught in the Middle, Monkeygate, Politics and Other Hairy Issues; the Autobiography of Mike Procter, claims the entire saga was carried out amid "farcical" administration blunders.

In a disciplinary hearing at the end of the Test, Singh was found guilty by Procter and was hit with a three-match ban.

One of cricket’s darkest chapters.
One of cricket’s darkest chapters.

Procter says his decision was made based on the compelling evidence of Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden that they had heard Singh's alleged racial taunt.

Both on-field umpires and fellow-batsman Tendulkar told the hearing they did not hear Singh's alleged sledge.

There was also no sound on video footage of the incident.

Singh avoided having to testify because the Indian team successfully argued he was not able to provide evidence because he did not speak English.

"To say that Harbhajan didn't speak English already bordered on the farcical," Procter wrote.

Procter said his decision to find Singh guilty was easy based on the lack of evidence India's team was able to bring to the hearing.

In his book he writes India provided "absolutely nothing in terms of evidence".

The hastily-organised appeal to Procter's verdict is where the farce truly began to break apart.

Procter writes that Cricket Australia leaned on players not to push for further action against Singh.

Ponting wrote in his own book that he felt let down by Cricket Australia.

Procter said the lengths Aussie officials went to appease Indian cricket officials was "mind-boggling".

"Cricket Australia had leant heavily on the players to take the racism allegation away, and instead make it a matter of abuse," Procter wrote.

Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds pictured at the hearing into Singh’s code of conduct breach hearing.
Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds pictured at the hearing into Singh’s code of conduct breach hearing.

Tendulkar's flip-flopped testimony at the hearing where he changed his version of events to declare he heard Singh call Symonds an obscene Indian term which included the word "maa ki".

Tendulkar's testimony backflip was enough for Kiwi lawyer Sir John Hansen to downgrade Singh's ICC conviction to a lesser charge of abuse - and the bowler ended up avoiding a one-match suspension he should have served because of previous incidents.

The ugly saga still rankles with many of those involved.

Procter admits the saga hurt him personally. He was branded a villain by Indian commentators and sensationally criticised by Sunil Gavaskar in a newspaper column in which the Indian Test legend declared Procter was a "white man taking the white man's word against that of the brown man".

"By accepting the word of the Australian players and not the Indian players, the match referee has exposed himself to the charge of taking a decision based not on facts, but on emotion," Gavaskar wrote.

"Worse still, his decision has incensed millions of Indians, who are quite understandably asking why his decision should not be considered a racist one, considering the charges that were levied on Harbhajan were of a racist remark.

"Millions of Indians want to know if it was a 'white man' taking the 'white man's' word against that of the 'brown man.'

"Quite simply if there was no audio evidence nor did the officials hear anything then the charge did not stand."

What really happened out in the middle looks destined to forever be hidden behind the strikingly contrasting accounts from both teams.



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