'I felt Harbhajan Singh was wronged' - Anil Kumble opens up on 'Monkeygate' scandal

‘I felt Harbhajan Singh was wronged’ – Anil Kumble opens up on ‘Monkeygate’ scandal

The saga between Harbhajan and Symonds escalated into a hearing and the former was even handed a ban.

Andrew Symonds of Australia watches Harbhajan Singh
Andrew Symonds of Australia watches Harbhajan Singh. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

Former India captain and coach Anil Kumble has recalled the infamous Monkeygate incident of 2008. This episode endangered to ferment the relationship between two of the biggest dominators in world cricket. Anil Kumble has played Tests and ODIs representing the country for as long as 18 years.

During India’s tour of Australia, the infamous Sydney Test between both the teams had made headlines for all the disreputable reasons. While the umpiring errors were horrendous during the match, the biggest story to come out of it was the Monkeygate incident involving Kumble’s spin twin Harbhajan Singh and Australia’s star all-rounder Andrew Symonds.

The Kangaroos won the game dramatically by 122 runs with minutes to spare on the final day. The high-voltage match featuring as many as five centuries, including a triumphant knock of 162 from Symonds were overshadowed by the scandalous controversies.

Kumble, who was the captain of the Indian side at that time recalled the entire episode of the dispute between the two players. He stated that Bhajji was wronged and that was the general consensus in the team dressing room. The saga between Harbhajan and Symonds escalated into a hearing and the former was even handed a ban.

“As a captain, you’re generally tuned to take decisions on the field. Here I was faced with something, which was off the field, to take a decision in the larger interest of the game,” Kumble recalled.

Talking to Ravichandran Ashwin on his YouTube show ‘DRSWithAsh’, Kumble conceived that the team felt Harbhajan was wronged and they appealed against it. The players even thought of going back to India abandoning the series.

“And one of our players (Harbhajan Singh) was obviously banned for three matches because of a racist remark – that was what the pronouncement was and we appealed. I felt he was wronged. We had to obviously be together as a team but the challenge was that there was a lot of talk about the team wanting to come back at that point in time, and leave the tour and come back,” said Kumble.

Fondly known as ‘Jumbo’, Kumble felt the people in India also would have accepted their decision. “Yes, you know, probably (people) would have accepted that the Indian team was wronged and that’s why they came back,” he added.

Senior players did well to keep the team together: Anil Kumble

At the time, there were hollers within certain sections that Team India should abandon the tour mid-way and return to India. Kumble, however, stated that senior players did well to keep the team together during those tough times and that helped them achieve positive results in the final two matches of the series.

“I think as a captain, or as a team, we had gone there to win the series. Unfortunately, with the first two results not going our way, the best result could have been a drawn series because two more Test matches remained and I just wanted to rally around the team. I was fortunate enough to have senior players, former captains, in the team,” he added.

In the four-match series, after losing first two Tests to the hosts, India managed to anchor a comeback in the third match in Perth and won it by 72 runs. The final Test ended in a draw as Australia sealed the series 2-1.