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Kambli's googly puts Congress and cricket on back foot

Last updated on: November 19, 2011 22:17 IST

Kambli's googly puts Congress and cricket on back foot

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi

A free for all has broken out within the government, between the government and the Congress, between the Congress and the Opposition as well as within the sports (read cricket) fraternity over the charge made by former cricketer Vinod Kambli that the 1996 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka was fixed.

India lost the semi-final and Mohammad Azharuddin who is today a Congress MP from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh was the captain of the team.

 

Union Minister Sharad Pawar, who was then president of the Borad of Control for Cricket in India and is currently the president of the International Cricket Council has rubbished the claim, saying it is nonsense and has no merit as it has been made after 15 years.

Another Union Minister Rajiv Shukla, who is BCCI vice president and chairman of the Indian Premier League has also given a similar reaction and said there is no need for a probe as the claim has no merit.

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Image: Vinod Kambli

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Kambli's googly puts Congress and cricket on back foot

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But Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken, who was 'pained at the charge', said that the claim should be probed and the guilty be brought to book.

He even went to the extent of saying that if the BCCI do not conduct the probe he would personally look into the matter and his ministry would order a probe, as it is important to get to the bottom of sensational disclosure made by Vinod Kambli, who played in the 1996 team which lost the semi final.

 

Maken, who is fighting a determined battle to bring the BCCI under the Right to Information domain and wants it made accountable to the government, is pitted against strong cricket czars who control one of the most financially lucrative sports in the country. And cutting across party lines they are all united in protecting the power and hegemony of the BCCI.

Maken has also said that there should be a law against betting and that the government would move in that direction.

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Image: Sports Minister Ajay Maken

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Kambli's googly puts Congress and cricket on back foot

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Interestingly, All India Congress Committee general secretary Digvijaya Singh, who is in-charge of Uttar Pradesh and is also a huge cricket lover himself, has said that Azharuddin is a fine sportsman and has nothing to do with match fixing. He too has rubbished Kambli's claims. 

Congress leaders say that part of the reason for his defence may be because of the Muslim community's attachment with Azharuddin and the approaching assembly elections in UP.

 

The former cricketer came to the AICC office at 24, Akbar Road in New Delhi to meet Digvijaya Singh on Saturday evening. He, however, could not meet the party leader as the latter was not there.

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Kambli's googly puts Congress and cricket on back foot

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As in most cases, the Congress has officially refused to react on this issue saying that they had nothing to say and would give no official reaction.

Some Congress leaders privately said that Digvijaya Singh should not have offered such a strong defence because this happened when Azharuddin was not a Congress MP and it is difficult to say who is right and who is wrong. Others felt he was right in defending Azharuddin.

 

BJP leader and former cricketer Kirti Azad has also reacted strongly, saying that the charge should be probed, even as his party colleague Arun Jaitley, who is the president of the Delhi Cricket Association, has so far not spoken on the issue.

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Image: Arun Jaitley

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Kambli's googly puts Congress and cricket on back foot

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This is not the first time that charges of match fixing have surfaced against Azharuddin. He has been in the firing line earlier.

 

With thousands of crores riding on cricket matches and international betting mafias and betting rings operating both in India, the Middle East, London and other places, betting in cricket is a parallel industry and churns out huge amount of black money.

 

In this case, what is interesting is why Kambli chose to speak now, after so many years and whether a probe would actually be initiated on the issue.

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