Axed Indian pair tarnish former players’ reputations: Harbhajan

Former India spinner Harbhajan Singh has slammed all-rounder Hardik Pandya and batsman Lokesh Rahul for “shocking” sexist comments on a television show that he believes threaten to tarnish the reputations of former players.

The pair has been sent home from the tour of Australia by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), meaning they will miss the three-match ODI series and a tour of New Zealand. The BCCI is yet to name replacement players.

The Indian cricket team is in damage control after the pair were widely criticised, particularly in their home country, for comments on Indian talk show Koffee with Karan.

Marching orders: Lokesh Rahul has been sent back to India alongside teammate Hardik Pandya.Credit:AAP

Pandya and Rahul were not eligible for selection in Saturday’s first one-dayer, captain Virat Kohli once again acknowledging the situation was far from ideal.

Out of line: Hardik Pandya has been sent back to India.Credit:AAP

“Always when two quality players are not featuring in the side, it upsets the balance,” Kohli said before play began at the SCG.

The show, which aired last Sunday in India, featured Pandya boasting about his exploits with women, his behaviour at nightclubs and telling a story about the day he lost his virginity. Rahul was not as loose with his comments but did talk about getting in trouble from his parents for having condoms when he was an 18-year-old.

The reaction and backlash in India has been staggering, and Harbhajan believed their comments implicated he and other former Indian players.

“It was shocking to me,” Harbhajan told India Today. “He [Pandya] tried to look cool on TV by putting other players also on the same level. People might think that Harbhajan Singh is one of them, Anil Kumble is also one of them and Sachin Tendulkar is also one of them. We are not like them.

"He is bringing everyone's reputation on the stake, including Sachin Tendulkar's and all that of these great players who have played for the country for more than 20 years.

"This is wrong. They need to understand they play cricket and people treat them as gods. They can't go out and say such things while pretending to be cool. You're making fool out of yourself. This definitely was going to happen."

A statement on the BCCI's official website read: "The CoA [Committee of Administrators], in accordance with the BCCI, has decided to suspend Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul from playing any form of cricket after their comments on a TV show.

"The duo will now return to India and an inquiry and proceedings will be made against them for misconduct and indiscipline that have been initiated under rule 41 of the BCCI constitution.

"The duo is now called upon to provide an explanation as to why they should not be sanctioned for misconduct and indiscipline under rule 41 of the BCCI constitution within a period of seven days."

Harbhajan backed the BCCI’s call to take a stance.

“In this case, there was a lot of talk about sexism, racism and other ill-natured comments,” Harbhajan said. “You don't tell these kinds of things on national television. We don't even discuss these things with our friends."

On Friday, Kohli distanced himself from the pair by labelling their remarks “disappointing” and not reflective of what the Indian cricket team stood for.

“Any inappropriate comments that are made in that scenario are something that we definitely don’t support,” Kohli said. “The two concerned players felt what has gone wrong and they have understood the magnitude of what’s happened."

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