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

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.    

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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