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Aus media slams Sachin over 'Monkeygate' row

| January 2, 2012, 10:30 AM IST

Sydney: As Sachin Tendulkar gears up for his 100th international ton in the second Test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Tuesday, a leading newspaper in Australia has stirred up the 'Monkeygate' controversy on the eve of the match, and questioned the Little Master's role in that episode.

The Herald Sun reported that some Australians lost respect for him when he gave completely different accounts of what took place in the Harbhajan Singh-Andrew Symonds row at the SCG during India's previous tour to Australia in 2007-08.

"While the cricket world is abuzz with anticipation that the Little Master will score his 100th international century during the second Test in Sydney, beginning tomorrow, some recent Australian players have not forgiven his role in the Andrew Symonds 'Monkeygate' scandal," Malcom Conn wrote in a column titled Sachin's Sin City.

The writer goes on to state that the 'Monkeygate' scandal will forever haunt Tendulkar.

"...despite the unparalleled greatness of his achievements, some Australians lost respect for him when he gave completely different accounts of what took place as a key witness in the Harbhajan Singh-Andrew Symonds racism meltdown," he claimed.

Harbhajan was suspended for three matches after the second Test in Sydney four years ago, but the penalty was subsequently reduced to a fine on appeal.

In his book True Colours, Adam Gilchrist, who retired at the end of that 2007-08 season, was furious, describing the appeal as a "joke".

"Tendulkar, who'd said at the first hearing that he hadn't been able to hear what Harbhajan had said - and he was a fair way away, up the other end, so I'm certain he was telling the truth - now supported Harbhajan's version that he hadn't called Symo a 'monkey' but instead a Hindi term of abuse that might sound like 'monkey' to Australian ears," Gilchrist wrote.

"The Indians got him off the hook when they, of all people, should have been treating the matter of racial vilification with utmost seriousness."

Mike Hussey, meanwhile, is confident that such a furore will not erupt again.

"That was a long time ago and obviously the personnel in the teams have changed quite a lot, particularly in our team, maybe not so much in the Indian team," Hussey said.

"I think that's gone, that's in the past. The players that were involved in all the controversy have moved on. I think it's well in the past and certainly not been spoken about in our dressing room at all."

Opposing captains Michael Clarke and MS Dhoni have also made it clear they did not want a repeat of that ugly Test and its aftermath. In fact, Dhoni and Clarke believe the Indian Premier League has brought cricketers of the two countries together and reduced on-field tensions, which should prevent a Monkeygate-like fracas during the ongoing Test series.

Incidentally, the two principal actors of the 2008 row - Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh and Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds - are not playing in the series, and both now share the Mumbai Indians dressing room in the IPL.

"The IPL has helped reduce tensions between the two teams and, irrespective of what happened in the past, our relationship with the Indian players is stronger than ever before," Clarke wrote in his Daily Telegraph column last week.

"Both teams love to play tough cricket and we have had some wonderful matches over the years. I am confident that lines won't be crossed, but in case they do, players will have to reckon with harsh punishments, including those handed out by the ICC and Cricket Australia," he said.

Dhoni was also circumspect about Sydney 2008.

"A few individuals did make mistakes at that point in time. It's something that we don't really want to do as professional cricketers," Dhoni had said last week.

"There's a lot at stake. People look up to us. So we'll try to keep it controversy-free. But still it's important to make it interesting," the India skipper said.

Meanwhile, cricket experts dismissed the outrageous write-up as merely an attempt to distract the Indians, who trail the four-match series 1-0.

"i get along well with Malcolm Conn but I am delighted to disagree that Sydney 2008 represents a moment of shame for tendulkar," tweeted noted commentator Harsha Bhogle.

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