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Shyam Bhatia in London

The issue of the withdrawn Wisden invitation to Mohammed Azharuddin is to be taken up at the highest level when the former Indian skipper has lunch this Sunday with American billionaire John Paul Getty.

Getty, a cricket fanatic and major shareholder of Wisden, has invited Azharuddin to lunch at his country mansion outside London when the issue of the rescinded invitation is expected to be discussed at a personal level.

"We are not going to let the matter rest," Azharuddin's lawyer Nyanesh Desai told rediff at the Finchley Cricket Club in North London where Azharuddin is participating in a seven-a-side match to raise funds for the UK Childline charity.

In a separate and exclusive interview at the Finchley cricket grounds, Azharuddin revealed the details of how he had been invited by Wisden Asia to attend the Wisden cricket awards at the Wembley Park Conference Centre in London, as he was one of the nominees for the Indian Cricketer of the Century Award.

"I first had an invite from Mr Yajurvindra Singh who is the CEO of Wisden," Azharuddin said.

"They asked me if I was interested in going to London and then after three weeks I got a contract saying I had to do this and that and they would get me there.

"After another five days they said, 'No, we can't do it because we've made a mistake and l think it would be very embarrassing for us or whatever reason they had. I really think its terrible."

Asked who had withdrawn the invitation, he said, "Somebody called from London, someone called Anthony Bouchier from Quintus. They are now saying wrong things by saying I was invited."

Quintus is the company that organised the Wembley event on behalf of Wisden. According to Azharuddin when the organisers subsequently realised Azharuddin was in London anyway, they tried to make amends by issuing him with a late invitation. But the gesture was made too late as far as Azharuddin is concerned.

"I was not invited. Just because I happen to be in England, I am not going to go there. When Bouchier called me in Hyderabad, he originally said the invitation was a mistake. I told him, 'I don't want to talk to you, I'll talk later."

In London Bouchier told rediff, "There was never any question of cancelling the invitation. I rang him to tell him that the invitation remained, but that Quintus -- the events organiser -- were not paying for his trip.

"Quintus paid for some of the nominees, but he was not one of the nominees that Quintus paid for.

"In writing to his representative we said he was very welcome to come to the event but that he should come at his own expense."

Azharuddin says, "I am not bitter about it, but they mustn't say wrong things when they have made a mistake. They should not try to correct it in a wrong way. I have not made the mistake. I have got a lot of self respect and there was no way I was going to go."

The ex-captain was full of praise for Kapil Dev and his selection as Wisden cricketer of the century.

Returning Kapil Dev's compliment describing him as a 'gem of a cricketer,' Azharuddin said of the Wisden award, "I think Kapil Dev deserved it more than anyone else. I think he has played on very flat wickets and to get to that 430 mark and one time world record holder and then 5,000 runs -- a brilliant fielder, good runner between the wickets, I think it is very appropriate.

"He also has tremendous fitness and never missed a game."

Azharuddin said many of his cricketing colleagues have kept in touch with him, although he let slip that does not include members of the present Test side.

"A lot of people have kept in touch with me, maybe not from the present team, but I have a lot of well wishers like Kapil."

"I speak to a lot of players, they call me on and off. But during the difficult time I hardly had anyone talking to me.

"It sounds sweet when after a long time people talk good about you, especially when you have done a lot for the country and played with distinction. It's good, it's a good feeling."

Supremely pragmatic, he says he does not miss being part of the team " because I have to live with what happened. But definitely I still had three or four years to go. I was still fit and scoring runs, but anyway hopefully things will change."

"Mentally, I am very strong, physically I am very strong. I think that keeps me going, that keeps me strong all the time."

He refused to discuss members of the current Indian team, saying it was uncalled for him to comment on individual players, including those he has played with in the past.

Asked to comment on media reports that his professional troubles have affected his marriage, he replied, "That's all rubbish. Whoever is doing that or saying that they must be having the problems. Must be affecting them, not me."

Azharuddin was optimistic about the company he started, Events, although he admitted the market was a bit low. "Hopefully it will pick up. It can do anything like fashions shows, concerts, we've done a couple of shows."

He was also upbeat about the cricketing prospects of his young sons, Asad, 12, and Ayaz, 10. "They are both good all round players. I don't want to put any pressure on them, if they are good, they will play."

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