The “Monkeygate Scandal” during the controversial second test between India and Australia in 2008 remains one of the darkest periods in cricket history. But was it that serious? Following the verbal altercation between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh in the second test between India and Australia in Sydney in 2008, the Australian cricketer had alleged that the Indian off-spinner had hurled a racist abuse at Symonds, referring to him as a ‘monkey’.
Reacting to the alleged incident of sledging in Sydney, the late KPS Gill had written in his column in The Pioneer that Harbhajan Singh might well have used a common expletive that enjoys a lot of currency in northern India. However, instead of spelling out the unprintable phrase fully, he had represented it with a coinage of his own “terrymakey”.
Symonds could but not take it in his strife. The sledging weighed heavily on Symonds who opened up about it in a recent chat on The Brett Lee Podcast.
“I felt the burden and responsibility for the folks who backed me up, who said they heard what was said. In the previous tour in India, Harbhajan had called me a monkey there then. And I went straight after the game, called him out of the dressing room and spoke to him outside. I said, ‘Boss, the end of it.’ (sic) I said, ‘We got a few names for few of your boys and it will only get ugly.’ We shook hands,” Symonds said in the interaction.
“But when they (India) returned a few months later to Australia for that new year’s test, I remember Michael Clarke got the last wicket in the last over. It was probably the greatest test I had played.
This incident with myself (sic) and Harbhajan had happened earlier that day. We had won the test in the last over; Unbelievable test, I hadn’t played anything like that,” he said.
Symonds then talked about the aftermath of the incident, saying, “We literally had two beers and went right into meeting with match referee Mike Procter. The game finished at 5.30-600 PM. We didn’t leave till 1 AM the next morning. The celebrations were not only ruined and then all the lies… you know what I mean.”
Symonds then went on to explain how that incident had affected him mentally.
“The stump microphone evidence disappeared. It was just one thing after another. That weighed heavily on me. I started drinking heavily. I had the Australian Captain Ricky Ponting backing me. Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden backed me. They were good friends and still are,” he said.
“I didn’t deal well with it. I thought we are going to win this. I remember the legal team saying why don’t we downgrade and try getting him on this charge? But why are we downgrading it for? We got five men who heard what Harbhajan said. Why should we downgrade charges. What is going on?,” he added.
“I remember we had a meeting with Ponting before next game and with solicitors. I remember telling Punter this isn’t going well, is it? That weighed heavily on me. Ricky [Ponting] would say Roy [Symonds] was never the same after that. He felt responsible for putting the boys through all that. I felt guilty I suppose of dragging all of them into that situation. It all started going downhill,” he concluded.
Symonds also opened up about that controversy involving Micheal Clarke and how their friendship took a bad hit during the time Clarke became Australian captain. Once, he sent Symonds back from a one-day series for skipping a team meeting and instead going to fishing.
Speaking on the podcast, Symonds said that their friendship went south when he got a good salary in the Indian Premier League. Symonds became the costliest foreign player when he was picked by Deccan Chargers for a sum of Rs 5.4 crore in 2008.
“I guess money does funny things. It’s a good thing but it can be a poison and I reckon it may have poisoned our relationship. I’ve got enough respect for him to probably not go into detail about what was said. My friendship with him is no longer and I’m comfortable with that, but I’m not gonna sit here and start slinging mud,” he said.