Nemesis for Azharuddin and Prabhakar   (20 Oct 2000)

The suspense regarding cricket match-fixing is finally over. The Central Bureau of Investigation has named five players and one physiotherapist as part of the match-fixing scandal which not only rocked the nation, but the entire cricketing world after the Hansie Cronje episode.

It is quite interesting that the CBI has named Manoj Prabhakar as a match-fixer who initiated the whole controversy. This is an interesting finding which the CBI unearthed after proper investigations. In fact, the CBI has found Mohammad Azharuddin and Prabhakar as match-fixers and has blamed Azharuddin for influencing Nayan Mongia and Ajay Jadeja.

It has also widely described the relationship Ajay Sharma and physiotherapist Dr Ali Irani had with various bookies. There does not seem to be any reference to Nikhil Chopra and Navjot Singh Sidhu as far as match-fixing is concerned. There is also elaborate reference to several bookies including Ratan Mehta, who were in touch with these players.

I think Azharuddin and Prabhakar have received the worst comments from the CBI. In all probability the government will initiate serious action against them.

Those who have got a clean chit may again find a place in the team, but Nikhil Chopra is the only one who fits in this category. He is still a good performer and can contribute a lot to the team. Skipper Saurav Ganguly is supportive of Chopra and would want to utilise his services for the team.

I feel very sorry for Jadeja, who is an excellent cricketer and is still bubbling with enthusiasm on the ground. Sometimes one suffers due to the company one keeps and this is what happened with Jadeja. Even today our teams requires a talented all-rounder like him to replace either Vinod Kambli or Robin Singh.

It is to be seen what view the government and the board will take after the CBI report. There can be various interpretations of the report, but I feel if Jadeja was only friendly with the bookies and was not involved in match-fixing, he should be given another opportunity. After all, he has a long career ahead of him while the days of Azharuddin, Prabhakar, Sharma and Mongia are already over. Even if they were not involved in the controversy, they could not have found a place in the team.

What I realised during my visit to Nairobi for the ICC Knockout tournament was that after all this hue and cry over the investigations, our boys in the Indian team are very scared and disciplined. They are shocked by the recent happenings and would steer clear of such shady dealings, which is a good development.

Apart from that we have got some stars in the making like Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, who will definitely perform extremely well in the days to come. I think more and more new players should be brought into our team by replacing non-performing oldies. Amongst the batsmen Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Mohammad Kaif should be given opportunities in our team.

Now the entire controversy should be laid to rest and the government, CBI and BCCI should concentrate on the positive aspect by reviving the game and assuaging the feelings of cricket lovers. No more speculations, allegations, counter-allegations and cock-and-bull stories should be visible in the media.

Luckily, our team with fresh entrants is also doing an excellent job. After all, beating the World Champions Australia and the previous ICC Knockout Champions South Africa was not an easy task. New Zealand might have won at the last minute because of certain errors of judgement on the ground, but nobody can question the motive and genuine endeavours of our players.

Today, after a long time our team looks like a united force. There are no differences among the players, no ego hassles, no conflicts, no north-south groupings and no junior-senior disparity. There is a tremendous amount of togetherness in our team, which was clearly visible in Nairobi.