Sreesanth alleges Harbhajan hit him

The Indian Premier League faced its first on-field controversy with allegations that Harbhajan Singh hit Sreesanth, his India team-mate and IPL rival, after Friday’s match between the Kings XI Punjab and the Mumbai Indians in Mohali. While Yuvraj Singh, Sreesanth’s captain, said Harbhajan had apologised after the incident, it remains to be seen how the IPL will handle it as a disciplinary issue.

Sreesanth, who took two wickets for Punjab, was spotted in tears after the match – which his side won – and later confirmed the incident to Cricinfo. He declined, however, to comment on it.

Sources close to him said that after the match a smiling Sreesanth walked up to Harbhajan – the captain of the losing Mumbai Indians – and said “Hard Luck”. “That was enough for Harbhajan to lose his cool and hit Sreesanth under the eye,” said sources close to the fast bowler.

Harbhajan refused to answer questions on the incident at the post-match press conference. “Can we have questions on just cricket,” he said in response to questions relating to the incident. His opposing captain, however, was clear in his view. “This is really an ugly incident,” Yuvraj said, “this is totally unacceptable.” He added, though, that Harbhajan had visited the dressing-room after the match and apologised to Sreesanth.

“At the end of the day, players shake hands. But today saw more that from Harbhajan and Sreesanth,” said Tom Moody, the Punjab coach. “The positive thing is that Harbhajan had a long chat with Sreesanth. But I am not sure what ramifications this incident will have.” Cricinfo has learnt that Sreesanth complained about the incident to officials of the Mohali franchise, including co-owners Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia.

However, IS Bindra, the president of the Punjab Cricket Association, denied an official complaint has been lodged. “Some media people have asked me about this incident. No official complaint has reached me yet. I believe what happens on the field should be sorted out by the players on the field itself,” Bindra told Cricinfo.

On-field relations between Harbhajan and Sreesanth appeared strained during the India-South Africa Test series as well. Sreesanth had dropped Hashim Amla off Harbhajan during the Chennai Test to which Harbhajan reacted with displeasure after which he was seen motioning towards Sreesanth after making a diving save at point.

This is the second time in the last six months that Harbhajan has been at the centre of controversy. Earlier this year the Australians accused him of racially abusing Andrew Symonds during the Test series Down Under.