MUMBAI, India (Reuters) - The Indian cricket board banned off-spinner Harbhajan Singh for five one-day internationals on Wednesday for a slapping incident involving Shanthakumaran Sreesanth during a domestic Twenty20 league match last month.
A statement from the board said the disciplinary committee, which met on Wednesday, had decided to invoke Rule 3.2.1 of the BCCI regulations wherein the maximum punishment is ‘a ban up to a maximum of five ODIs and/or three test matches’.
“The committee accordingly decided to ban Mr. Harbhajan Singh for five one-day internationals, starting today (May 14), and observed that any further instance of misconduct will invoke a life ban,” the statement said.
The ban meant the 27-year-old off-spinner will miss the forthcoming tri-series in Bangladesh in June and the start of the Asia Cup in Pakistan.
The board also instructed medium-pacer Sreesanth to improve his on-field behaviour, BCCI said in a statement.
On April 28, Harbhajan was banned for the remainder of the Indian Premier League (IPL) season after being found guilty of slapping by the match referee.
The three-man disciplinary committee, which included president Sharad Pawar, acted on a report submitted on Tuesday by commissioner Sudhir Nanavati after the board ordered an independent inquiry into the incident.
“A copy of the report was given to him (Harbhajan), who was heard by the committee,” the statement said.
“The player admitted his guilt in the concerned matter. He prayed for leniency and assured the committee that there would not be any misconduct on his part in the future.”
The slapping incident occurred after the Mumbai team, captained by Harbhajan in the absence of the injured Sachin Tendulkar, lost to Sreesanth’s Mohali.
Television pictures showed Sreesanth, an international team mate of Harbhajan‘s, in tears after the game.
Harbhajan’s international ban comes four months after he was involved in a row on the controversial tour of Australia.
He was initially banned for three tests after being found guilty of making alleged racist remarks towards Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds.
But the spinner was subsequently let off with a fine following an appeal.
Harbhajan is one of his country’s most successful spin bowlers, but his disciplinary record has been poor. He was even ejected from the board’s National Cricket Academy early in his career.