Friday the 13th is hardly everyone’s choice for the release of a new movie. But then, ‘Azhar’ is not just another Bollywood film. It is based on the life of cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin, one of the finest Indian batsmen whose cricketing career effectively ended with the dark chapter of the 2000 match-fixing scandal.
How far and how accurately the events in the player’s life have been portrayed will be known when the Emraan Hashmi-starrer hits the theatres next week. But one man who is likely to scrutinise the movie closely is a former CBI official who led the investigations into the scandal and interrogated Azhar over the match-fixing allegations.
“There is Azhar’s confession on tape. He had very close links with some dubious characters and there are conversations on tapes about throwing away matches. There are more than two hours of recording of his confession,” MA Ganapathy, now the Uttarakhand director general of police, told HT.
Ganapathy was a superintendent of police with CBI when the match-fixing scandal broke in 2000. He was the chief investigating officer and interrogator in the case.
After an internal inquiry into the CBI report, the Indian cricket board banned Azharuddin and all-rounder Ajay Sharma for life from the game. Two other players, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar, were handed five-year suspensions.
However, in 2012, the Andhra Pradesh high court ruled that the life ban imposed on Azhar was illegal.
Azhar, 53, is now a politician and was the Congress MP from Moradabad. In the last general elections, he lost his bid to return to Lok Sabha from Tonk, Rajasthan.
The cricketer-turned-politician was not available for his reaction to Ganapathy’s comments.
The disgraced cricketer – who holds the record of hitting three consecutive Test centuries on debut – has said in several interviews that the film is an accurate portrayal of the events leading to and after the scandal.
In his statement to CBI, Azhar had denied any telephonic conversation with fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. He, however, admitted to have spoken to gangster Abu Salem.
“There is also (the) conversation between him and Abu Salem in which he was talking about throwing matches. I think that conversation was recorded by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, in 1994 or 1995.
“When he was confronted with the conversation between him and Abu Salem, he broke down and cried. He completely cracked,” said Ganapathy, a 1986 batch IPS officer.
Ganapathy said that the CBI did not file charges against Azhar as “there was no law under which he could be tried.”
“He can say the court set him free and there is no case against him…But that recorded statement is still with CBI,” Ganapathy added.
Known for his elegance and wrist work with the bat, Azharuddin played 99 Test matches and 334 one-day internationals in a career spanning more than 15 years. He amassed 6,215 Test runs with 22 centuries and 9,378 ODI runs with seven tons.