Melbourne: Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting racked up “Monkeygate” controversy and questioned Sachin Tendulkar's role in the scandal. He said he was taken aback by the senior Indian batsman's statement which saved Harbhajan Singh.
In his memoirs titled 'The Close of Play', Ponting said he didn't understand why Tendulkar vouched for Harbhajan during the appeal hearing but did not say anything when match referee Mike Procter initially suspended the spinner for passing allegedly racial comments at all-rounder Andrew Symonds.
"I couldn't understand why Sachin didn't tell this to match referee Mike Procter in the first place," Ponting, captain of Australia at that time, wrote on the role of Tendulkar, who would retire from the game after his 200th Test next month.
Harbhajan was accused of calling Symonds a monkey during the 2008 Sydney Test and was suspended for three Tests. But he was cleared in an appeal hearing, conducted by Justice John Hansen from New Zealand, in which Tendulkar appeared as a witness and gave a statement in favour of the Indian.
Ponting is not the first cricketer to question Tendulkar's role in the scandal as retired wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist had taken a similar view in his autobiography five years ago.
Ponting said he found it absurd when Harbhajan was merely fined after the incident which threatened to hurt the relations between the two countries.
"Owing to an administrative error, the judge was never told about any of Harbhajan's past offences, which meant the penalty was way less than what it should have been," Ponting was quoted as saying in excerpts published by 'Daily Telegraph'.
"As I pondered this result over the weeks and months that followed, I started to think that I needed to be more savvy about the off-field politics", Ponting wrote.
"Maybe the Indian cricket juggernaut of the 21st century is too influential to shake. But then I thought about the way a number of people in the game had questioned our motives; how they thought we were just seeking an advantage rather than acting on principle," he added.
Ponting said the then Indian captain Anil Kumble's statement about the Aussies not playing in the spirit of the game damaged the team's cause.
"...I felt that there was a lot of hypocrisy about the 'Monkeygate' scandal...Mike Procter heard all the evidence and found Harbhajan guilty. The next day, the Indians responded by threatening to go home," Ponting wrote.
"Because captain Anil Kumble's uncontested line about 'Australia playing outside the spirit of the game' received so much attention, quickly the belief spread that it was us, not Procter's judgement, that provoked the trouble," he said.