Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds
File photo of Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh from the Sydney Test of 2008Reuters

Even after nearly a decade of its occurrence, the infamous monkeygate scandal of the 2008 Sydney Test between India and Australia is a widely debated topic.

Former players and officials have had their own versions of the story that created a rift in the cricket fraternity during India's controversial tour of Australia in 2007/08.

As it turns out, Mike Procter -- the South African match referee, who was officiating the match and even handed Harbhajan Singh a three-match ban over racial row before it was overturned has opened up on the infamous saga.

In his autobiography -- Caught in the Middle, Monkeygate, Politics and Other Hairy Issues; the Autobiography of Mike Procter -- Procter has shed light on the "farcical" process followed during the hearings.

What is monkeygate?

Harbhajan was caught in a controversy when the then Australian captain Ricky Ponting complained that the off-spinner had racially abused Andrew Symonds. It was reported that the off-spinner had allegedly called the former Australian all-rounder a "monkey" during the third day of the Sydney Test, which was also marred by poor umpiring decisions.

Ponting, despite then India captain Anil Kumble's insistence, went ahead and placed a complaint.

Procter, assisted by an International Cricket Council (ICC) lawyer, held a hearing after the fifth day and handed Harbhajan a three-match ban. 

During the hearing, Harbhajan's batting partner Sachin Tendulkar and the on-field umpires said they had heard nothing. There was no audio captured in the video evidence provided as well.

Notably, Harbhajan was not able to testify during the hearing because he was not able to speak English, according to the then Indian team manager Chetan Chauhan.

Procter, in his autobiography, has ridiculed Chauhan's defence. "To say that Harbhajan didn't speak English already bordered on the farcical," Procter wrote, The Australian reported.

A miffed Indian management then appealed against Harbhajan's ban. It was reported that the team was ready to cancel the tour mid-way.

Amid escalated tensions between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Cricket Australia (CA), a New Zealand judge was flown in for a rehearing, during which Tendulkar changed his stance and said Harbhajan abused Symonds "maa ki" -- a lewd Indian phrase -- that could have sounded "monkey".

The New Zealand judge ruled there was insufficient evidence for a racism charge to stick and fined Harbhajan only fifty percent of his match fee after the latter pleaded guilty.

Sachin Tendulkar
File photo of Tendulkar attending a monkeygate hearing in 2008Reuters

'India provided no evidence'

Procter wrote India provided "absolutely nothing in terms of evidence" and that it was "mind-boggling" to see Australian cricket board trying to please its Indian counterpart when an Australian player was "wronged".

Meanwhile, Symonds, who opened up about the incident in 2010, also hinted that the BCCI had flexed its muscles and that Harbhajan should have been punished.

Procter also reacted to Sunil Gavaskar's claims that targeted the former match referee. Notably, the former India captain had said a "white man' taking the 'white man's' word against that of the 'brown man'."

"It was a massive generalisation and went against every bit of my moral fibre," Procter added.