Jalandhar, May 9 : Fans of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh on Friday prayed for reprieve from punishment for the cricketer involved in a slap row with pacer Shantakumaran Sreesanth, ahead of a hearing by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Harbhajan's boorish behaviour blighted the spinner's career when he was banned from a domestic Twenty20 league for slapping rival player Sreesanth after a Mumbai Indian versus Kings XI Punjab Indian Premier League (IPL) match on April 25.
Harbhajan was suspended from the remainder of the league after being found guilty of hitting Kerala paceman Sreesanth at the end of a match.
The slapping incident occurred after the Mumbai team captained by Harbhajan in the absence of the injured Sachin Tendulkar lost to Sreesanth's Mohali.
Television pictures showed Sreesanth, an international team-mate of Harbhajan's, sobbing after the game.
Harbhajan and Sreesanth appeared before the BCCI appointed Appeals Commissioner Sudhir Nanavati in Ahmedabad today and their statements were recorded on the slapping incident.
Fans in Jalandhar prayed that Harbhajan who hails from Punjab would be spared of a harsh punishment, especially since he has been slapped with a 11-match ban by the IPL.
"We have come here to pray for Harbhajan Paaji who is to appear before the BCCI today. We pray to God to forgive our brother Harbhajan for his mistake and give him the strength to perform noble deeds in future. We pray to God to take care of Harbhajan who is a very nice person and plays for the country," said Raj Kiran Singh, a cricket fan.
However, the BCCI appointed a second inquiry committee to look into the matter and said that the errant cricketer would be dealt with seriously.
BCCI appointed Appeals Commissioner Sudhir Nanavati said on Friday that he had recorded the statements of both cricketers and would submit his report on Monday to the BCCI president Sharad Pawar and then the BCCI Disciplinary Committee will take action on his recommendations.
After the hearing Nanavati said he was satisfied with the statements of both Harbhajan and Sreesanth and added that he would not need to cross-examine either player or any more witnesses.
Meanwhile, Harbhajan's fans desired that he should not be punished further.
"We request every one to forgive Harbhajan so that he can make use of his talent and become a good person," said R.S. Saggu, another cricket fan.
Harbhajan's IPL ban came three months after he was involved in a row on the controversial tour of Australia.
The 27-year-old was initially banned for three tests after being found guilty of making racist remarks against Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds in the Sydney test.
But the Indian spinner was subsequently let off with a fine on a lesser charge following an appeal.
Harbhajan could face further trouble this time as the board has launched a separate inquiry that could lead to a possible ban from international cricket.
IPL officials found him guilty under clause 4.2 of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) code of conduct rules which refers to a physical assault, with punishment ranging from a ten-game suspension to a life ban.
Harbhajan has had a wayward disciplinary record since making his India debut.
In 1998, the year of his debut, he was fined and given a suspended one-game ban for clashing with Ricky Ponting after dismissing the Australian in a one-day international in Sharjah.
He has been fined four times since then.
Harbhajan, who has twice been reported for 'throwing', was also expelled from the National Cricket Academy (NCA) early in his career for poor attitude.
He made a superb return in 2001 when he took 32 wickets to spark India's 2-1 home test series win over Australia.
Sreesanth, 25, has also been disciplined for on-pitch theatrics and poor behaviour.
The worst example came at the Nottingham test last year when he barged into England captain Michael Vaughan at the non-striker's end.