Sir — Vinod Kambli, who was compared to the great Wally Hammond at the beginning of his career, has stunned the cricket world by claiming that the semi-final between India and Sri Lanka of the 1996 World Cup may have been ‘fixed’. Kambli has pointed fingers at the former Indian captain, Mohammad Azharuddin. Azhar’s reaction has been swift and ferocious (“Absolute rubbish, says Azhar”, Nov 19). He has dubbed Kambli to be a man lacking in character. Several others have described Kambli’s allegations as a publicity stunt. Questions have also been raised as to why Kambli chose to raise the issue after 15 years.
Paul Condon, the former head of the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit, had stated that match fixing was rampant in every cricket-playing nation in the 1980s and 1990s. Recently, three Pakistani cricketers were found guilty in a sting operation and sentenced to prison. Hansie Cronje’s role in the match-fixing scandal has been proved without a doubt. Had Cronje not died in a plane crash, he would have been sent to jail as well. Kapil Dev, too, once came under a cloud. Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar were handed out five-year bans. Azharuddin had been banned for life by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and was denied his hundredth Test match appearance.
I had attended the semi-final of the 1996 World Cup. India won the toss, but, to my surprise, elected to field. Those who are familiar with Eden Gardens know about the ‘dew factor’. Batting under the lights becomes difficult. So, on winning the toss, captains usually opt to bat first to put pressure on the opposition. Azhar, however, chose to field after winning the toss. Kambli has questioned the wisdom of such a move.
I remember the Indian bowlers, especially Javagal Srinath, bowled splendidly. But Aravinda de Silva batted magnificently and took the Lankan score to 251. India started well but after Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal, wickets tumbled in a heap and the match had to be abandoned due to an unruly crowd, with India tottering at 120 for 8. The match referee, Clive Lloyd, then declared Sri Lanka the winner.
Those who watched the match had wondered whether the team management, including the captain, had failed to read the character of the pitch. Moreover, why had the Indian batsmen, except Tendulkar, failed to apply themselves? These questions remain unanswered. Former players are attacking Kambli because they fear that skeletons may tumble out of the closet. Azhar’s outburst is an attempt to declare himself above suspicion. But one must remember that the BCCI had imposed a life-ban on him. Can there be smoke without fire?Azhar is now a member of Parliament. As suggested by Sourav Ganguly, he should take steps to clear his name. There have been attempts to show Pakistani cricketers as fixers and Indian cricketers as saints. But this isn’t the whole truth.
Tapan Das Gupta, Burdwan
Sir — This is not the first time that Vinod Kambli has made wild claims. He hopes to get free publicity through such acts. But people are smart enough to see through his game. He has no proof to substantiate his claims. The ICC and the BCCI should encourage whistleblowers, but those who make unsubstantiated allegations should be penalized.
Ambar Mallick, Calcutta
Sir — It will be to the detriment of our nation if the media remain “a favourite whipping boy of the judiciary” (“Media muffling”, Nov 19). The media have helped uncover corruption. Reporters brave dangerous conditions to keep the public informed about current affairs. But the media can make mistakes: in 2008, a prominent news channel mistakenly showed a photograph of Justice P.B. Sawant instead of Justice P.K. Samanta with regard to the Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam.
The media should be more responsible in their coverage. But a fine of Rs 100 crore imposed on the news channel is perhaps a tad harsh. Having said that, it cannot be denied that India’s judiciary is much better than those in other countries.
Benu Kumar Bose, Calcutta
Sir — A news channel made an error while reporting on a scam. Since the channel admitted its mistake, the aggrieved person’s image was not sullied. If further judicial action was considered necessary, then perhaps a token fine would have sufficed.
Arun Sen, Kent, UK