India fast bowler Sreesanth, who was involved in the infamous ‘Slapgate’ incident during IPL 2008, has said that he “begged and cried” to the investigating commissioner to not ban Harbhajan Singh, after the post-match skirmish snowballed into a major controversy.
Sreesanth, who is currently serving a seven-year ban for his alleged involvement in spot-fixing, spoke about the incident twelve years ago, when he tried to get under Harbhajan’s skin during the Kings XI Punjab-Mumbai Indians match, only for his comments to take an ugly turn.
“It was a one-off incident,” Sreesanth told Cricket Addictor in a Facebook live session. “I have told in Bigg Boss [television show] also, it was the first time I opened up and spoke. Obviously, I irritate in that sense when I bat or bowl, you can see. For me, it’s war, it’s still is – if you’re playing against Australia or any other team for that matter, you give your very best, doesn’t matter who you’re playing against.”
“The IPL was happening in the first year, it was the third or fourth match or something, and obviously I went after everybody. Bhajji [Harbhajan] got out off the first ball to Irfan Pathan. Mazaak mazaak mein [Jokingly] I used to tell him in the dressing room Punjab Bombay ko harayenge, Punjab Bombay ko Harayenge” [Punjab will beat Mumbai]. It was a kiddish thing that I used to do, but maybe at that time, Harbhajan was completely different.”
Right after the game, cameras captured a sobbing Sreesanth holding his right cheek, having allegedly been slapped by Harbhajan, who was consequently handed an 11-match IPL ban by BCCI.
“On the same night itself, it was all sorted,” Sreesanth said. “It was all sorted and thanks to Sachin paaji (Sachin Tendulkar), who said, ‘You guys play in the same team’, I said, ‘Absolutely fine, I’ll go and meet him’. We met and had dinner the same night, but the media took it to the next level.”
“And even in front of [Sudhir] Nanavati sir [the retired judge who headed the inquiry], they have the video clipping also, where I’m literally crying and begging and telling him not to ban or do anything with Bhajji, we are going to play together, I don’t want anything to be taken away from Bhajji, because he is a match-winner.”
“But I’m absolutely fine with Bhajji [now]….he’s changed a lot. In public also, he has said ‘Sree tu kahi bhi ho yaar, maaf karde’ [Sreesanth, wherever you are, forgive me]. He was always my elder brother, maybe at that point of time it was different but he will always be a legend.”