By the time India went to Australia in 2007-08, there was a strong underlying current of tension between the two teams thanks to intense rivalry over the last few contests. It required just one incident for the situation to become serious and that’s what happened thanks to the controversy which has come to be known as ``Monkeygate’’.
Australia won the first Test at Melbourne by 337 runs and the teams moved to Sydney for the second game of the four-match series. Australia won by 122 runs but the result was overshadowed by the row that erupted over allegations that Harbhajan Singh had racially abused Andrew Symonds the only non-white player in the Australian side.
The original decision of the referee Mike Proctor to suspend Harbhajan Singh for three Tests incensed the Indians and there was talk of the tour being called off if his appeal was unsuccessful. In the end wiser counsel prevailed although the decision to delay the appeal until after the Tests – which left Harbhajan available for selection – smacked off expediency.
The incident that triggered off the whole controversy occurred late in the Indian innings on the third day and principally it involved Harbhajan and Symonds. Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting reported to the umpires that Harbhajan had uttered a racist epithet perhaps ``monkey.’’
After close of play Anil Kumble the Indian captain apologized to Ponting and asked him to talk the matter over and not report it to the referee Mike Proctor. Ponting told Kumble he had already done so. A hearing before Proctor was arranged to be held after the end of the match. Tension already there because of some poor umpiring decisions by Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson escalated.
After a long hearing held the day after the Test concluded Proctor suspended Harbhajan for three Tests. Meantime India brought a counter charge against Brad Hogg for referring to them as ''bastards.'' The Indian team management threatened to call off the tour unless Harbhajan’s ban was overturned and the team instead of traveling to Canberra as scheduled stayed back in their Sydney hotel.
Meanwhile former BCCI president IS Bindra landed in Australia to negotiate with Australian officials while simultaneously BCCI vice president Lalit Modi was quoted as saying that unless Harbhajan was cleared the tour
would be cancelled and India would reconsider future engagements with Australia.
In Image: This picture taken on 06 January, 2008 shows India's captain Anil Kumble (2nd R) listening to Harbhajan Singh (R) as Australia's Andrew Symonds (2nd L) talks with Michael Hussey (L) during the final day of the second Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.