March 3, 2008 / 5:46 AM / 11 years ago

India back Harbhajan Singh over monkey claims

India's Harbhajan Singh is seen during the first one-day international tri-series cricket final against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground March 2, 2008. India's management backed the controversial spinner on Monday following reports that he made monkey gestures to the crowd during the final. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

SYDNEY (Reuters) - India’s management backed controversial spinner Harbhajan Singh on Monday following reports that he made monkey gestures to the crowd during the first tri-series final against Australia.

The reports quoted a spectator as saying Harbhajan had scratched his armpits and spat after being heckled by sections of the crowd during the match in Sydney on Sunday.

Harbhajan was banned for three tests for allegedly calling Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds a monkey during the second test in January. The punishment was later reduced on appeal.

“I think it is wrong,” India manager Bimal Soni told reporters. “Nothing has been done like that. They are making a mountain out of a molehill. He did nothing.

“These stories I do not believe them and I strongly condemn them.”

India beat Australia by six wickets in the first tri-series final and can clinch the tournament with victory in the second match in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Soni said his team were concentrating on cricket.

“We do not talk about it, we only talk about the cricket on the field and we do not want to talk anything about these things,” he said.

Australia batsman Matthew Hayden was reprimanded last week for describing Harbhajan as an “obnoxious weed” in another of the controversial incidents which have marred India’s tour.

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