Bhajji, Symmo in friendship with help from Sachin
Melbourne: Bitter foes in the Sydney Test racial row, Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds have buried the hatchet and are friends now with Sachin Tendulkar helping his IPL side Mumbai Indians team-mates in doing that, according to a report.
Three years of seething animosity triggered by the "Monkeygate" scandal of the 2008 Sydney Test has ended thanks to the Indian Premier League, with both the feisty players forming a bond at Mumbai Indians playing environment, a newspaper reported.
The newspaper said Tendulkar played a part in ending one of the most talked-about feuds in world cricket.
"India`s Test legend Sachin Tendulkar has been front and centre in healing their wounds as Symonds relishes his role of small fish in the big Mumbai pond next to World Cup heroes Tendulkar and Harbhajan," the report said.
Symonds, who was stinging in his criticism of Harbhajan as recently as last October, refused to speak much about the new bonding but his manager confirmed the truce.
"I`m not really doing any interviews, sorry - but it`s all good here," Symonds was quoted as saying by the newspaper when asked about his relationship with Harbhajan.
35-year-old Symonds has been living away from the spotlight for some time in far north Queensland after retiring from international cricket in 2009.
His manager Matt Fearon said Symonds has left the "Monkeygate" wounds behind.
"That`s definitely the case. They`ve left everything in the past. The auction for the IPL was in January. I remember calling him and saying, well, you`re going to Mumbai – with Harbhajan. He said two words: `Aw, true?`
"That said it all. He was a bit speechless. It would be fair to say there was a bit of uncertainty about how it would play out. There was an unknown there but yes, they are getting on great. They are both competitive animals. When two people like that are on different teams, there can be some very real tension. But put them in the same team and it`s a different story," Fearon said.
"We all know how much tension there was before, but that`s one of the beauties of the IPL."
Symonds and Harbhajan became sworn enemies when the fourth Test of the 2007-2008 series exploded after Harbhajan was charged for calling Symonds a monkey. The Indian team denied the charge, saying that Harbhajan had only uttered a native word that sounds like monkey.
India threatened to quit the tour when Harbhajan was suspended for three matches. On appeal, an ICC-appointed judge overturned the ban. Symonds was furious and accused Cricket Australia of failing to back its own players.
Symonds`s close friend and former Test teammate Matthew Hayden was pleased to hear that the two had made up.
"There was probably a time when I thought Symonds and Harbhajan would never be on speaking terms. But they`ve moved on now and I`m not surprised to hear it. That`s the way it should be. But there`s no point in any of us looking back to what happened in 2008," Hayden said.
"The IPL has been tremendous in making two competitive cricketing nations much closer. There are highly competitive players from both countries and there`s always going to be tensions on the field because that`s the nature of the sport.
"I`ve always said you never really know someone until you play with them. All the things about someone you hate because they`re on the other side, you love it when they`re on your team. That`s what has happened with Roy and Harbhajan."
Mumbai Indians coach Shaun Pollock said he expected the two players to get on with it regardless of personal feelings.
A three-day initiation camp in February, involving team dinners and promotional work, had done little to lessen worries about Mumbai Indians imploding around another Symonds-Harbhajan dispute but it did not happen and the two finally got along.