ussie players provoked Harbhajan: Chauhan

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Sydney, Jan 5 (UNI) The Indian team management has come out in full support of India's ace off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, saying the 'offie' was provoked beyond limit by some of the Australian players while he was batting.

Indian team manager, Chetan Chauhan said ''it would better have been sorted out on the ground itself. What my player tells me is there was extreme provocation from some of the players while he was batting. Things were going on.'' Chauhan added that since the team was not ready to accept any form of sledging, Harbhajan just responded to the comments from Aussie players.

''The general feeling in the team is that we accept too much sledging and we are too goody-goody and we should answer it. Maybe that is what is not being liked,'' he said.

However, he denied any allegations of racial abuse by the off-spinner and maintained that the issue should have been sorted out on field. ''I don't think that word (monkey) was used on the ground but it's not a derogatory word in India.'' BCCI's chief administrative officer and recently appointed anti racism officer Ratnakar Shetty said India was committed to the ICC's anti-racism code and claimed the relationship between the two countries was strong.

''It is something that has happened on the field of play and we will find out the details of what was said at the hearing. I am sure the match referee is capable of handling the matter,'' he added.

Meanwhile, the Australians feel that the spinner would not be let off as they have a strong case. Australian opener Matthew Hayden said ''We believe we've got a very strong case.'' Harbhajan has been booked under level 3.3 of ICC's code of conduct. The hearing is scheduled for tomorrow after the final day's play before the ICC match referee Mike Proctor.

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