IPL suspends Harbhajan

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New Delhi, Apr 26 (UNI) Taking a damage control step, the Indian Premier League (IPL) today temporarily suspended controversial off-spinner Harbhajan Singh from the tournament pending inquiry for allegedly slapping pacer S Sreesanth.

''Based on prima facie video evidence as seen and reviewed by the match adjudicator and referee Mr Farokh Engineer from the tapes provided by Sony&TWI, a decision has been reached to suspend with immediate effect Harbhajan Singh of the Mumbai Indians pending the inquiry into the incident on April 28,'' IPL Chairman and Commissioner Lalit Modi said in a statement.

''The inquiry into the incident at Mohali in the game between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians will now take place at the Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi on April 28. A final verdict would be announced by the adjudicator Farokh Engineer post hearing at New Delhi,'' he said.

Earlier, I S Bindra who is one of the board members of the IPL made it clear that the Harbhajan, if found guilty, would be charged under the ICC's code of conduct.

Slapping a fellow player, under the ICC code of conduct, constitutes a level four offence and could lead to a life ban or a minimum ban of five Tests to 10 ODIs.

The BCCI president Sharad Pawar had already told the IPL chairman that if there was prima facie evidence of wrong-doing on the part of any player, the board members should take immediate action against the player.

Earlier after the match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab yesterday, Sreesanth was seen sobbing which was later alleged that the off-spinner had slapped the pacer.

However, the result for Harbhajan's provocation later appeared that Sreesanth had said ''hard luck'' to him after Kings XI beat Mumbai Indians by 66 runs.

Harbhajan will face the disciplinary inquiry here on April 28.

The spinner has recently been involved in a number of controversies during India's tour of Australia and could miss out on a numbr of IPL matches.

Harbhajan's suspension has come as a major blow to Mumbai Indians who have already been missing star batsman Sachin Tendulkar due to a groin injury.

UNI RAR SP HT2315

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