Kambli's Match Fixing Claims a Publicity Gimmick?
By Denzil Fernandes
Daijiworld Media Network
Nov 19: The battle lines have been drawn yet again between two former Indian cricketers who now must be past their best when it comes to playing cricket. Nevertheless, with an eye on the proverbial publicity platform former India batsman Vinod Kambli has suddenly picked on his former captain Mohammed Azharuddin and claimed quite sheepishly that the 1996 World Cup semi final between India and Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens in Kolkatta might have been ‘fixed’.
However, Kambli’s claim was supported by Sports minister Ajay Maken instantly. He went on to say, "When a player of the team has made a charge, it should be thoroughly investigated. People of the country have the right to know what exactly happened. Whether the accusations made by the player are true or false, the people have the right to know".
Kambli's claims have, however, been rejected by the then skipper Mohammad Azharuddin, the then coach Ajit Wadekar and former opener Sanjay Manjrekar.
Azharuddin was backed by his former teammates Sanjay Manjrekar, Nayan Mongia and Venkatpathy Raju and the then team manager Ajit Wadekar who all said that the decision to chase was a collective cricketing decision.
Wadekar, however, rubbished Kambli's claims and said the game was clean. "I did not even think there was anything suspicious in that loss. It was purely because we misread the wicket and were slightly overconfident after beating Pakistan in the quarterfinal.”
"Why did he wake up suddenly after 15 years? During my four-and-half year stint (with the national team), I used to frequently have dinner with Vinod. Had he told me about his suspicions then, I would have requested the board to probe the matter," he said.
Sanjay Manjrekar, now a cricketer-turned-commentator and Kambli’s team mate with the Mumbai team, said the decision to bowl was an honest cricketing decision.
A Congress MP from Moradabad now, Azharuddin said Kambli was making false allegations.
"In the team meeting it was decided that we would bowl if we win the toss. In the last match (group stage) against Sri Lanka we lost despite scoring 271 at the Ferozeshah Kotla. So we decided to do something different at Eden Gardens and the decision was taken unanimously at the team meeting. May be when he was sitting in the meeting, he must have been sleeping," said Azharuddin, who was given a life-ban by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after being found involved in the 2000 match-fixing case.
"I think Kambli is just talking rubbish and making these statements, he has showed his class. He has betrayed the team," Azhar added.
Match fixing is the talk of the town these days in almost every continent where cricket is played and this comes right behind the claims made by yet another former ICC chief of Anti Corruption Unit, Paul Condon who says that there is very little whistle-blowing these days by current players.
"I think the temptation was to do a little fix here and a little fix there and still win the match - and they were not seeing it as criminal," he reportedly added. Condon, formerly commissioner at London's Scotland Yard, apparently further disclosed: "Since 2000, there have been probably five or six national teams who at some stage have been causing concern and have been closely monitored and scrutinized. In terms of frequency, probably Pakistan has been the most challenging in recent years."
One of the finest cricketers from Pakistan Rashid Latif has always fought against match fixing. Having done so, he has naturally been on the wrong side of players who did not cooperate with him in unearthing the ‘fixers’. He has been a long time whistle blower so to say and questioned why Condon was silent for so many years about match fixing. Under the circumstances, he was not popular with the officials and missed a few chances to play more cricket. "I don't understand why he took 10 long years to unearth the fact that all the teams, in one way or the other, were involved in fixing. The decade-long silence actually suggests that [Lord] Condon, along with the ICC officials of the era, turned a blind eye to the menace."
Surely, there seems to be an element of truth in the findings by Rashid Latif.
The recent verdict against three of Pakistan’s top cricketers in Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Ameer too rattled the cricketing world in no uncertain terms. There will be so many former culprits (from so many teams) turning in their graves who must have escaped from the clutches of the law through sheer luck and guts to say the least.
Many have been caught and punished while there are several cases pending in courts for misdeeds apparently done on the cricket field during the course of a game. Lucrative offers by bookies and so called ‘fixers’ have forced greedy operators to fall into the trap unavoidably. Several countries have invariably been shocked to learn that their own cricket heroes were allegedly involved in turning victory into defeat and vice versa.
As the game progresses and the money increases, there will be allegations and counter allegations among the cricketers who have been part of the scene. Eyebrows are always raised when a strong team falls meekly against all expectation. Match fixing, spot fixing and the like are going to stay whether one likes it or not. Despite strong action and restrictions by ICC, revealations about the nasty happenings seem to be part of the activity of the cricket related ‘fixers’.
The recent spat between Azharuddin and Kambli is nothing but a publicity gimmick. While both the gentlemen of cricket are pursuing different routes now, Kambli’s flutter seemed ill timed to say the least. After almost 10 years, Kambli has suddenly decided to wake up and find reasons for India’s defeat against Sri Lanka in 1996 at the World Cup semi finals. Unfortunately for Kambli the blast has fallen on deaf ears.
Fix or no fix, there will be match fixers who will be a part and parcel of the game come what may. There is no stopping them !