During India’s tour of Australia, the Sydney Test made headlines for all the wrong reasons. While it was known for the umpiring errors, the biggest story to come out of it was the Monkeygate incident involving Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds.
The controversies ended up overshadowing what was otherwise a quality match. Australia won the game by 122 runs with minutes to spare on the final day. The saga between Harbhajan and Symonds snowballed into a hearing and the former was even handed a ban.
Kumble, who was the captain at the time, recalled the entire episode. He stated that the off-spinner was wronged and added that was the general consensus in the team dressing room. “As a captain, you are tuned to take decisions on the field. Here, I was faced with something which was off the field. I had to take a decision in the larger interest of the game,” Kumble told Ravichandran Ashwin during the latter’s YouTube show ‘DRSWithAsh’. “And, one of our players, Harbhajan, was obviously banned for three matches because of a racist remark - that was what the pronouncement was and we appealed. I felt he was wronged. We had to 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. “Yes, you know, probably (people) would have accepted that the India team was wronged and that is why we came back,” he added. At the time, there was clamour within certain sections that India should abandon the tour mid-way and return to India.
Kumble, however, said senior players did well to keep the team together and added that helped them achieve positive results in the final two matches of the series. “Unfortunately, with the first two results not going our way, the best result could have been a drawn series. I just wanted to rally around the team. I was fortunate enough to have senior players and former captains.” Following losses in the first two Tests, India did well to make a comeback in the third match in Perth and won it by 72 runs. The fourth and final Test ended in a draw as host Australia clinched the series 2-1.