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The poor umpiring and Harbhajan Singh’s three match ban for alleged racist remarks to Andrew Symonds have marred what was otherwise an excellent test match.

Even if it is true that Bhajji is guilty (which does not seem to have been unambiguously proved) I feel that the three match ban is unreasonably harsh. Harbhajan is alleged to have retaliated against Aussie taunts by calling Symonds a ‘monkey’. It would be a laughing matter except that the Aussies didn’t think so. The remark was interpreted as a racist slur, a complaint was made and the sentence subsequently passed by the match referee.

I believe that sledging is a part of the game and players should be allowed to say whatever they wish as long as they don’t get physical. And that includes racially motivated remarks. Test cricket is a contest for grown ups, not a stage for mollycoddling the thin-skinned. Cricketers who cannot deal with verbal attacks on the field should consider other careers.

However, even those who do not agree with me that sledging should go unpunished will perhaps concur that a bit of balance is in order. The trouble is that racism is such a politically sensitive issue that we tend to lose perspective when discussing it. In my opinion, the current scenario, where a pernicious comment to another player about his family, personal life or non-racial physical characteristics receives no more than a routine reprimand whereas the simple act of calling another cricketer a ‘monkey’ in the heat of the moment is punished with a three test-match ban, is a good example of this lack of perspective.

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