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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cricket Comics: How Much Truth in Kambli Crying?

Kolkata, March 13, 1996. The Cricket World Cup-1996 Semi Final match between India and Sri Lanka. More than hundred thousand restive spectators were expecting a great Indian victory.  Excitement was more because India beat archrivals Pakistan in an emotionally drenched quarterfinal just prior to the match. It was a day and night match.

India won the toss and elected to field first. A decision that irked the whole nation including the surging ones at the majestic Eden Garden grounds. The Eden Gardens pitch had been a slow turner always, particularly in those years and so, team batting first seemed to be favored.

But Sri Lanka did not go off to a good start losing two wickets for one run and finally managing to score 251 for 8 which seemed a good score, but quite within reach of the famed Indian batting strength. Though India lost Sidhu early Tendulkar and Sanjay Manjrekar put the team a commanding 98 for 1. And then all hell broke loose.

From that position of strength India lost seven wickets to reach a tottering 120 for 8. The already irked huge crowd could accept it no longer. They started a mini riot with throw-ins and bonfires. After a twenty minute break the match was restarted, but to no avail. The match referee Clive Lloyd awarded the match to Sri Lanka.

The significant facts so far: Decision to field first, sudden collapse, skipper Azharuddin scoring zero and Vinod Kambli remaining not out on 10 and returning to the pavilion crying inconsolably. The Indian team management justified that the decision to field first as a collective one and that the Eden pitch crumbled suddenly. Another significant fact coming out here was that the best spinner of the world Murlitharan got just one wicket.

But fifteen years had passed after that. And, the crying Vinod Kambli made allegations now that the match was fixed. He cried more in the act of doing so on a private TV channel. The significant facts here are that Kambli had always been a undisciplined and inconsistent player; despite being the classmate of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar he failed in cricket; he tried everything from politics to movie acting and failed everywhere; and he was famous a crier and dramatist.

MuhammadAzharuddin, the then captain, refused as strongly as expected. He gave the same reasons for the debacle and made a mockery of Kambli waking up after fifteen years. More significant facts about one of the most elegant strikers of the ball are: Azharudding lost his place in the team in 2000 due to match fixing allegations; Indian bookers linked him to former South African captain late Hansie Kronje who was also the main accused in late nineties; and though Azharuddin was cleared of all charges in 2006 he could not come back to the team.

The Indian sports minister made a statement asking the richest cricket board of the globe, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), to probe the Kamli’s claims and  on its failure to do so his ministry would step in. The significant fact here is that the minister had been trying very hard to make the BCCI accountable and bring it under right to information. Vested interests of the highest order had been preventing him from getting his policy sanctioned.

All the significant facts about this cricket comic may just make it a little more worthy of attention. With the convicted Pakistani players for match fixing in backdrop, this episode may just make the fight against fixing a little stronger.

But Indian cricket deals in huge money. And, huge money inevitably invites fixers, bookers, betters and all dirty minded agents to have a share in the loot!

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