India set to pardon Azharuddin

BCCI says it will go ahead and resurrect the match-fixing accused from a life of shame despite objections from the sport's world governing body.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 19:50 IST

BCCIsaid on Thursday they will go ahead and resurrect former captain Mohammad Azharuddin from a life of shame despite objections from the sport's world governing body.

Azharuddin was banned from the game for life by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2000 after a federal inquiry found him guilty of match-fixing.

Azharuddin, 43, denied the charges and is awaiting judgement on a suit filed by him in a court in his home city of Hyderabad challenging the life ban.

The new BCCI regime headed by political heavyweight Sharad Pawar, which took over last year, is convinced Azharuddin has served enough punishment and deserves to be pardoned.

The BCCI, which is pondering lifting the life ban, has invited Azharuddin to a function in Mumbai on November 4 to honour him and other Indian captains for their services to the game.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), which follows a policy of zero tolerance towards match-fixers, will decide on November 3 at its Executive Board meeting here whether to attend the function if the invitation to Azharuddin stands.

The BCCI, however, will not back off from inviting Azharuddin despite the ICC's reservations and even took a swipe at the world governing body.

"The general opinion is that Azhar had undergone enough punishment and he should be allowed to lead his life like cricketers who had faced similar charge in other countries but are going about as if they had done no wrong," the BCCI's chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty said in a statement.

"It must be clarified there is a feeling among BCCI members that what the board did when the scandal broke might have been correct, even if it was a knee-jerk reaction.

"In retrospect, they feel the board had been too harsh on its players considering the way the other boards went about protecting the guilty."

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, who was in India earlier this week to attend some matches of the Champions Trophy, had criticised moves to invite Azharuddin for the November 4 function.

Speed told reporters that it was unfair to compare Azharuddin with Australian Shane Warne and South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs, who are still playing after being punished by their respective boards for their involvement with book-makers.

"It was alleged and proved that Azharuddin was actively involved in match-fixing," Speed said. "We need to be careful when we compare cases with cases."

Warne and team-mate Mark Waugh were fined by the Australian board in 1995 after admitting they provided pitch information to a bookie in exchange for an unspecified sum.

Gibbs was suspended for six months in 2000 by the South Africans after he told an inquiry commission that he accepted an offer from then captain Hansie Cronje to under-perform in a one-dayer in India.

Gibbs, however, added he forgot about the offer when he went out to bat and told New Delhi police last week that he did not take any money from Cronje.

The BCCI's Shetty countered: "Yes, Azhar should not be compared with those who got away with murder, people who continued to play after serving a token punishment.

"One is being persecuted and condemned for life while others strut about as paragons of virtues," Shetty said in the media statement.

Azharuddin had played 99 Tests when he was banned. He scored 6,215 Test runs with 22 centuries and 9,378 runs in 334 one-dayers.


First Published: Oct 19, 2006 19:50 IST