In an atmosphere already vitiated by the spot-fixing scandal, a curious ending in the Goa versus Maharashtra Ranji Trophy game on Sunday provided more fodder for suspicion to the doubters.
One of the stars of the first edition of IPL, Swapnil Asnodkar finds himself in a soup after the Goa Cricket Association sacked him from the team after his decision to settle for a quick draw on the final day of their Plate league match against Maharashtra at Porvorim.
Goa were required to score 130 runs for an outright victory, in 19 overs, on the final day. But six overs into their chase at 18/1, the two skippers decided to call off play and settle for a draw, much to the surprise of everyone present at the ground.
The secretary of Goa Cricket Association, Prasad Phaterpekar, told HT, "It was decided during the break that the team would go for the target. So, obviously everyone was taken aback when Asnodkar was shaking hands with Rohit Motwani (the Maharashtra skipper)."
"As a result it was unanimously decided to sack Asnodkar, both as captain and player, as a disciplinary action for not following the team management's decision."
Maharashtra made 443 in their first innings, and in response, Goa made 405, conceding a 38-run crucial first innings lead. But Goa found themselves with a bright chance to snatch an outright win when they bowled out Maharashtra for 91 in their second innings, leaving themselves to chase at a rate of 6.8 runs per over.
The decision appears very strange considering Asnodkar's ability to make quick runs. He burst onto the scene opening the innings for Rajasthan Royals in the first edition of Indian Premier League and gave the team thundering starts with his aggressive batting. He averaged 34 with a strike rate of 133 and was one of the crucial players in the Royals' triumph in 2008.
His ability to clear the infield and his short stature prompted many to compare his role to the one Romesh Kaluwitharana played for Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup triumph.
Shaun Williams, coach of the Maharashtra team, too expressed surprise at Asnodkar's decision to settle for a draw. "We were surprised at the decision. Had we been in that position, we would have gone for the target," said the former Australia player.