Cricket czars, Congress victimise Kambli?
In its response to former cricketer Vinod Kambli’s statement about the 1996 World Cup semi-final, the cricket establishment appears to be intriguingly united in its support for the then captain, Mohammed Azharuddin. Kambli had said on a TV channel that he found “something amiss” in the match between India and Sri Lanka.
Player after player has castigated poor Kambli for raking up the issue after 15 years. Perhaps, Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentarian and former cricketer Kirti Azad is the only player who said that Kambli’s allegations should be examined. He also demanded from the Indian cricket board to should provide details of the investigations conducted against players over match-fixing.
Even cricket writers like Boria Majumdar were incensed at the hint of Azhar’s role in match-fixing; Majumdar spoke abrasively to a senior sportswriter and journalist, Mihir Bose, on a news channel. The politicians who are part of the cricket administration also threw their weight behind Azhar.
International Cricket Council (ICC) president and Union Minister Sharad Pawar dismissed Kambli’s claim, saying, “I would have taken the claims seriously, if the same had come from players like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly or for that matter former team manager and coach Ajit Wadekar.” As if Kambli were a mad man.
Senior Cricket Board official and Congress leader Rajiv Shukla echoed similar views: “We are not giving any importance to the claims made by Kambli. If a person wakes up after 15 years and makes some allegations, that is not worth taking note of.”
The responses of these worthies are intriguing for a number of reasons. The stupidest charge against Kambli, and defence of Azhar, is that the allegation has come after 15 years. Should a murder be forgotten or forgiven just because 15 years ago it was viewed as a natural death? Shouldn’t the mistake be rectified and the culprit brought to book?
Instead of looking into the content of the allegations Kambli has made, the cricket establishment is trying to malign and debunk him as a publicity seeker or trouble maker. “This is ridiculous, absolutely baseless and part of the cheap campaign by people like Kambli. I played in the true spirit of the game and am fed up with such allegations against me every time the match-fixing debate arises,” said Azhar.
The idea is to just discredit Kambli. Pawar refuses to take him “seriously.” He even downplayed former chief of cricket’s anti-corruption wing Paul Condon’s comments about match-fixing in the 1990s: “I had a meeting with Condon, where he did talk about match-fixing and was quite general on his claim about all the nations.” Shukla also does not want to give “any importance” to his claims. Most cricketers agree with the two politicians.
As if everything has always been hunky-dory with the game in the world and in India, there were no betting and bookies, there was no player called Hansie Cronje, there were no convictions of Pakistani players in England, there was no action taken against Azharuddin by the Indian board for reasons related to match-fixing, Condon never said that matches were fixed in the 1990s.
It may be recalled that in the 1990s there were more than whispers and murmurs about foul play. Players did face action from the board. Azhar was banned for fixing matches; he reportedly confessed to having introduced Cronje to bookies. When cornered, he tried to hide behind the minority cover; he claimed that he was targeted for being a Muslim. Of course, he did not explain why he was made team captain in the first place. Later, he withdrew the obnoxious statement and tendered an apology. It is an index of the perversity in public life that such a tainted person not only got a Congress ticket to contest the Lok Sabha seat from Moradabad but also won the election.
Now, he is receiving full support from the cricket fraternity and the grand old party. And the person who has never been accused of cheating his team is facing rebuke. This is not cricket.