Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 23 News List

BCCI may revoke Azharuddin ban

AP , MUMBAI

The Indian cricket board (BCCI) is considering revoking Mohammed Azharuddin life ban for his involvement in match fixing, with many members believing the former test captain had been punished enough.

The Daily News and Analysis (DNA) newspaper yesterday reported that the board had put the onus of clearing Azharuddin on itself after it portrayed Azharuddin "as more wronged by the administration than he ever deserved."

The first signs of a backdown from the Indian board came when it announced last week that it planned to honor Azharuddin among a group of high profile players for their services to Indian cricket.

And the BCCI's administrative chief, Ratnakar Shetty, went further when he issued an official statement on Wednesday saying that "the general opinion is that Azharuddin has undergone enough punishment for his purported sin."

Shetty claimed that Azharuddin's harsh punishment was a knee-jerk reaction by Indian authorities under pressure from the International Cricket Council (ICC) when a match-fixing scandal rocked the sport.

A BCCI inquiry in 2000 found Azharuddin, who led India at three World Cups, and teammate Ajay Sharma guilty of match fixing and dealing with illegal bookmakers. Both were banned from ever playing, coaching or acting in any official position in cricket.

Two other Indian players -- Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar -- were suspended for five years.

Azharuddin has mounted a legal challenge against the severity of his ban.

The DNA newspaper quoted unnamed board officials as saying that a few technical and legal issues were in the way of lifting the ban on Azharuddin.

Azharuddin's "unilateral exoneration will lead to potential danger, Azharuddin can sue the board for defamation," a board lawyer was quoted as saying by the newspaper, which claimed that some negotiation had already started regarding an out-of-court settlement.

Shetty said there was a feeling among Indian board members that what the Indian board did in 2000 was correct, "even if it was a knee-jerk reaction."

"But in retrospect, they feel the board has been too harsh on its players considering they way the other boards went about protecting the guilty," he said.

Despite those assertions, India wasn't the only country to act against players accused of match-fixing.

South Africa banned its former captain Hansie Cronje, who later died in a plane crash, while Pakistan banned former captain Salim Malik.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said earlier this week the sport's governing body had a zero tolerance to corruption and expected a similar stance from its member nations.

Despite that, the Indian board plans to proceed with the ceremony on Nov. 4 -- the eve of the Champions Trophy final at Mumbai -- that will celebrate Azharuddin's contribution to the sport.

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