That Was A Very Difficult Time, People Didn't Know Much About Mental Health – Harbhajan Singh Opens Up On 'Monkeygate' Scandal

Updated - 02 Feb 2022, 11:50 PM

Harbhajan Singh, Andrew Symonds
Harbhajan Singh, Andrew Symonds (Image: Twitter)

Former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has opened up on the ‘Monkeygate’ scandal, stating it was a difficult time for him and people didn’t know much about mental health during those days.

Harbhajan Singh was involved in a massive controversy during the India tour of Australia 2007-08, which is known as the ‘Monkeygate’ scandal.

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Harbhajan Singh
Harbhajan Singh (Image Credits: Twitter)

Australia captain Ricky Ponting had complained to on-field umpires that Harbhajan had called Andrew Symonds “monkey” and when the matter was reported to match referee Harbhajan was found guilty and he was banned for three games.

The Indian team management was not happy with the verdict as they believed that Harbhajan had used the Hindi abusive phrase ‘Teri maa ki’ which Australians misunderstood as a monkey.

Later the racism charge against the spinner was dropped and his punishment was reduced. He was instead fined 50 per cent of his match fee.

Speaking on “Backstage with Boria”, the former Indian off-spinner talked about struggling with his mental health during the ‘Monkeygate’ scandal and said he used to think if he talked about his mental health problems people outside will think he was weak.

“That was a very difficult time. People didn’t know much about mental health. I used to think if I talk about it outside, they’ll think I am weak. So I dealt with it in my way. Sitting in my room, I used to think I didn’t even say anything to deserve such things. Every day my photo was in the newspapers, I was being called a racist. I didn’t want my kids to look at those clips and videos and think, ‘My dad said something that created such a huge ruckus’. So it was a very difficult time. I am glad that people are opening up about their mental health problems now but in those days I used to feel that people would call me weak for taking a step back or crying.”

God was, you know, as always very very kind and he gave me the result we were all looking for – Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh
Harbhajan Singh. Image-Twitter.

India lost the Test series against Australia during the 2007-08 tour but they won the Commonwealth Bank ODI series by defeating Australia and Harbhajan Singh was able to dismiss Symonds twice in the last two matches. While talking about this, Harbhajan said that God has always been very kind. He said:

“God was, you know, as always very very kind and he gave me the result we were all looking for. Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symmonds, both of who were involved in that incident, I got them both out in the semi-final (of the Commonwealth ODI series) then also in the final.”

Harbhajan Singh
Harbhajan Singh (Image Credit: Twitter)

Harbhajan Singh was also asked if he ever thought about leaving cricket, to which he responded that he never thought about it and he wanted to fight for being wrongly blamed.

“No, I didn’t think on those lines (leaving cricket). For me, the important thing was if you have not done anything wrong, then fight for it but if you are wrong then immediately apologise. You don’t belittle yourself by apologising. But if you are being wrongly blamed then you should go out there and fight whether it’s against one person or 1.25 lakh. I never thought about leaving cricket because cricket is the biggest thing for me. Whatever they did, I promised myself to not let my cricket suffer.”

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