While the 2008 Sydney Test created a big controversy that affected the relation between India and Australian national cricket teams, then Indian Test captain Anil Kumble was very disappointed after his fellow off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was accused of Monkeygate scandal. While Harbhajan was banned for that incident, Kumble-led Indian team was ready to leave Australia immediately.
It was the second Test of the four-match Test series between the hosts Australia and the visitors India. While India lost the first Test of that series by 337 runs, that Sydney Test was the crucial game for the visitors. Though the Indian team started that Sydney Test dominantly, continuous controversial umpiring decisions mostly went against the Indian team and the visitors finally lost that Test match by 122 runs.
But the Indian team got a major blow after that game when Harbhajan Singh was accused of the Monkeygate scandal, where the Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds claimed that the Indian cricketer racially abused him by calling him “monkey”. However, the legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who was very close during that incident, denied that claim from the Australian side.
Though the on-field umpires were not sure about that incident, Harbhajan was suspended for three Tests. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian national cricket team strongly protested against that decision. Even, they had decided to discontinue that tour immediately.
The legendary leg-spinner Anil Kumble told about that incident to the off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in his Youtube show ‘DRS with Ash’, “You know as a captain you’re generally tuned to take decisions on the field. Here I was faced with something, which was off the field, to take a decision in the larger interest of the game.”
“We had to obviously be together as a team but the challenge was that there was a lot of talk about the team wanting to come back at that point in time, and leave the tour and come back. Yes, you know, probably (people) would have accepted that the Indian team was wronged and that’s why they came back.”
We got around as a unit and then we sort of took a decision to continue: Anil Kumble
While India appealed against that decision, Harbhajan was later removed from the racial charges. The off-spinner Harbhajan was finally fined 50 per cent of his match fees. As the situation was cooled down, the BCCI and the Indian team decided to continue that Australia tour. The later matches of that tour, the Indian team showed their unity on and off the field.
Kumble added, “I think as a captain, or as a team, we had gone there to win the series. Unfortunately, with the first two results not going our way, the best result could have been a drawn series because two more Test matches remained and I just wanted to rally around the team. We got around as a unit and then we sort of took a decision to continue and make sure that we go on and win the next couple of matches because that would be the best message that we can give back our fans.”
While the Australian team won that Test series by 2-1 and also won the only T20I match against India, the Indian team won the 2007/08 Commonwealth Bank Series (ODI tri-series – Australia, India and Sri Lanka).