‘Advisor’ may have influenced specific Azharuddin
Nikhil among 3 out of academy

 
 
‘ADVISOR’ MAY HAVE INFLUENCED SPECIFIC AZHARUDDIN 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, June 17: 
Mohammed Azharuddin’s unleashing of the minority-card has sent the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) into a tizzy.

Officially, the BCCI may not react — at least, not immediately — but, off-the-record, there is alarm over Azhar having set an unhealthy precedent.

Worse, by claiming he has been “victimised” because he belongs to a minority community, Azhar could have provided much-needed ammunition to “vested interests” who, in any case, don’t respect national boundaries.

Indeed, Azhar may end up with unsolicited (and hugely embarrassing) support from this vested interests’ club. It will further queer the pitch.

“It’s reasonable to say we’re praying this one comment isn’t picked up by some people and ‘exported’ back... That will be disastrous,” a senior BCCI official told The Telegraph.

Such a scenario could, for instance, get the Union government into the picture in a big way and the already tough-talking Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, the (cabinet) minister for sport, may get into the interventionist-mode.

The BCCI is an autonomous body and isn’t affiliated to the government-controlled Indian Olympic Association.

Speaking this afternoon, the official added: “Cricket in India has never been influenced by considerations of community. The BCCI, obviously, is proud of that. Today, therefore, it’s unfair to even suggest anybody connected (with cricket in India) has motives guided by religion...”

The official explained why the BCCI probably won’t formally respond right now.

“Because we, in the BCCI, frankly aren’t sure what Azhar’s motive is... We aren’t sure about his agenda... He did speak to somebody (in the BCCI) on Thursday afternoon, after the Hansie Cronje revelation, and indicated he would be giving an interview...

“At no time, however, did Azhar even hint he would link his being a Muslim to being “victimised” and so on... It appears somebody advised Azhar to speak on the lines he eventually did. So, in the present context, silence truly is golden.”

The official added: “In normal circumstances, the easiest thing would have been to quietly summon Azhar and offer words of advice. Caution him, too, if required. But, at the moment, I don’t think that can be done.”

Understandably, the question doing the rounds is: Did Azhar heed the advice of some politician — he does have contacts both in the ruling combine and the opposition — or, did somebody else influence him?

It’s a reasonable question, as Azhar had never crossed the proverbial lakshman-rekha even in responding to trenchant criticism. Significantly, Azhar hasn’t denied one word of all that has been attributed to him by Hyderabad’s premier English daily.

Though the BCCI is hoping Azhar’s minority-stroke dies a “natural death,” not everybody is convinced it actually will.

As another BCCI official put it: “Now, what’s to stop somebody from the Sikh community to allege Harbhajan Singh’s ouster from the National Cricket Academy (in Bangalore) has communal overtones? I. S. Bindra has already gone on record to say players from Punjab are being victimised...

[Bengal’s Nikhil Haldipur and Railways’ Murali Karthik have also been packed off. While Karthik’s release is on account of “fitness,” Harbhajan and Haldipur have been “disciplined.”]

“Tomorrow, it could be the turn of somebody from Tamil Nadu or Bengal. Are we, then, to end up in a situation where the India XI will have slots reserved on communal lines?”

Azhar perhaps didn’t intend to but, in trying to clear his name, has dealt Indian cricket a savage blow.

Amazingly, Azhar has himself forgotten he was captain from January 1990 to August 1996 and then, again, from January 1998 to July 1999.

According to well-placed sources, Azhar’s outburst has ensured the proposed Code of Conduct will have a clause prohibiting players and administrators from giving a communal tinge to their feelings.

As a source said: “That’s the least we can do... The Code is still being drafted and, so, there’s time to incorporate a specific clause.”

That, for some, would be the silver lining in this unfortunate episode.    


 
 
NIKHIL AMONG 3 OUT OF ACADEMY 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 17: 
Spinners Harbhajan Singh and Murali Karthik, both of whom have played Test cricket, have been removed from the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Bengal’s Nikhil Haldipur has also been shown the door.

While Harbhajan and Haldipur have reportedly been “disciplined”, Karthik is out on account of “fitness”.

The replacements are a youngster each from Punjab, Rajasthan and Saurashtra.    

 

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