Melbourne, Jan.29 : The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI's) appeal hearing against the three-Test ban imposed on off-spinner Harbhajan Singh for alleged racial abuse has commenced at the Adelaide Federal Court building.
Harbhajan Singh arrived at the Federal Court in Adelaide this morning to give his side of the story on the episode in the Sydney cricket Test in connection with the ICC Code of Conduct appeal. He was accompanied by Indian media manager Dr MV Sridhar.
Soon after, Indian batsman and key witness Sachin Tendulkar arrived, dropped off by Cricket Australia chairman Creagh O'Connor, who shared a joke with Tendulkar as they entered the building at the second attempt after mistakenly starting off towards a cafe next door.
Australian players Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden and captain Ricky Ponting arrived at around 10.30 a.m. local time and chose to avoid the media by entering the building via a side entrance.
A large media contigent was present outside the court to greet Harbhajan and others as they arrived for the 11a.m. local time hearing presided over by New Zealand Justice and International Cricket Council (ICC) appeals commissioner John Hansen. The hearing is to last two days, The Australian reported.
The Indians are seeking to have Harbhajan's charge and penalty _ imposed by ICC match referee Mike Procter for allegedly calling Australian allrounder Andrew Symonds a "big monkey" during the second Test in Sydney either downgraded or dropped at the appeal.
The hearing broke for lunch at around 1 p.m. and will finish for the day, if a conclusion can not be reached before 5 p.m. local time.
The importance of proceedings can be underlined by the fact that the limited overs portion of India's tour remains in some doubt pending the outcome.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sydney Test, the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) threatened to abandon the tour if the guilty verdict and penalty was not repealed, and it hung in limbo for two days before the Indians resumed with a tour match in Canberra.
Last night Indian captain Anil Kumble declined to rule out the possibility that such extreme measures would again be considered if Harbhajan's ban was upheld.
Such a decision would cost the BCCI a considerable amount of money both in terms of lost revenue and the inevitable ICC sanction that would result from breaching their tour contract.
"I think we will cross the bridge when we get there, so, I don't want to make any comment at this point," Kumble said.
Relations between the Australian and Indian teams have improved noticeably since the final day in Sydney, Ricky Ponting and Harbhajan sharing a handshake early in the match and Indian players unanimously warm in their farewells to retiring wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.
Much of the heat went out of their dealings after Kumble withdrew India's reciprocal charge against Brad Hogg for calling Indian players "bastards" prior to the third Test in Perth, but India's captain could not say whether the Australians were compelled to do the same for Harbhajan.