Fifteen years and 4 World Cup’s later, Vinod Kambli who was part of the team which played Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup semifinals has brought up a sensational allegation that it was highly possible that the match was fixed. The match saw India opting to field first and then crumbling from 98-1 to 120-8 after which the Indian cricket fanatics hurled bottles into the ground and the match was eventually awarded to Sri Lanka, becoming the first ever default match.
India’s Captain then was Mohammad Azharuddin who is currently serving a life ban for a match-fixing scandal. Kambli has accused him of having fixed the match as he opted to field on winning the toss when the team had unanimously decided to bat earlier. The match was won by Sri Lanka eventually as India performed disastrously with the bat and following which Kambli was axed from the side. “I will never forget the 1996 match because my career ended after this and I was dropped from the team. I was stunned by India’s decision to field,” Kambli said while participating in a STAR News debate.
Kambli’s claim seems baseless as Azharuddin was the kind of Captain as he always preferred to field first. Evidence of this can be seen in the Lord’s Test of 1990 where the wicket was described as a batting paradise but he still fielded first and English Captain Graham Gooch seized the opportunity and went on to make a triple century. Statistics state that Azhar has fielded first in 56 out of the 90 times he has won the toss and he has a win percentage of 64% fielding first as against to 45% when he batted first.
Azharuddin came up with a strong statement in his defense stating that, “I want to say that Kambli’s allegations are absolutely wrong. He has made an absolutely third class statement. I have said that it was a team decision (to bowl first). I think he was sleeping during the team meetings”. He also added that Kambli was dropped on the basis of his performance and that the claims of him being a scapegoat are unfounded. Kambli had said that something was definitely ‘amiss’ in the game and came in for strong criticism from Sourav Ganguly, who was part of the team then.
Ganguly said,”This is a big allegation. He should come out with a proof. I want to know why he took 15 years to talk about it. If he has proof let him come out with it. Just because India batted second in the semifinal and lost the match, it doesn’t mean that it was fixed”. The BCCI however does not seem too keen to probe into these ‘false claims’.
Sports Minister Ajay Maken has stepped into the matter and said, “When a player of the team has made a charge, it should be thoroughly investigated. People of the country have the right to know what exactly happened. Whether the accusations made by the player are true or false, the people have the right to know. I think it is high time, we have a law against betting as far as sports are concerned in our country”.
Cricket has seen a lot of off-field drama lately with the spot-fixing scandals, illegal betting and bizarre deaths of people concerning the game and it is time indeed that the game is given due respect. Match-fixing will continue to be a vague obscurity and circumstantial evidence should not be relied upon when such serious allegations are made by the ones involved in the game.