Sydney, Feb 27: Harbhajan Singh reckons that Matthew Hayden's stinging verbal attack at him stems from the frustration of realising that the Australians were "no longer the undisputed champions" and that India was the only team giving them a run for their money.
"Maybe, they realise that they no longer are the undisputed champions of the world. Maybe, they feel the crown is slipping. Otherwise, why a cricket veteran would ask a 19-year-old (Ishant Sharma) to join him in a ring?," he said in reaction to the latest provocation by Hayden.
Hayden called Harbhajan an "obnoxious little weed" and invited Ishant Sharma "into a ring" to sort out issues in an interview to Brisbane Radio on Tuesday. He also had a frontal attack on Harbhajan saying that "his record speaks for itself in cricket... that's why he has been charged more than anyone else who's ever played in the history of cricket..."
Harbhajan, who seemed to have read the personal attack by Hayden in entirety, said he preferred to keep himself in control instead of enjoining the matter with the belligerent Aussie opener. Harbhajan said that he didn't want to open a Pandora's box for a lot that the Australians have said this summer would then come tumbling out.
"But you only need to speak to international cricketers and international teams to know in what opinion they hold Hayden," he said looking at the broadside as just "one more instance of what our hosts have been up to all this summer."
The visiting Indian team feel all along they have been "provoked" by the Australians and a written complaint with the match referee Jeff Crowe after the Sydney game earlier this week was in response to it.
Harbhajan was also surprised at the Australian opener's statement, which said that Indians were complaining "because they are losing every game they are playing". "Really, you think so? I would have thought we are the only ones who have got the Australians on the run this summer," he said.
Cricket Australia (CA) held an emergency meeting in Melbourne on Wednesday morning to discuss if Hayden had breached rules as the board has the authority to stop its contracted player from commenting on television, radio or print if it feels that it is not in good taste about an opposition players or board.
The word from CA on its meeting though is awaited. Besides Hayden getting embroiled with Harbhajan and Ishant, there was another specific incident of Ricky Ponting having a go at Harbhajan during the game between the two teams in Adelaide on February 17.
Apparently, Ponting kept having a go at Harbhajan in Adelaide, asking him "to show what he had got" in the middle. Harbhajan, on his part, had then cheekily remarked: "Mate, whatever I have shown in the middle has been better than yours in the series so far."
It appeared to have stung the Australian captain who asked Harbhajan to "f... off" after the latter was dismissed. A departing Harbhajan, on hearing so, stopped and turned round only to see Ponting disappear among celebrating Aussies.
"They do it so well," Harbhajan said grudgingly "they keep the back to you when they have something nasty to say to the opponent."