A Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court has set aside on Thursday, the lower court's order which justified the life ban imposed on the former India cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin in 2000 by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Azharuddin had appealed in the High Court stating that the ban was imposed on him in 2000 without any evidence for his alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal. The former India captain had played 99 Tests scoring 6215 runs and 334 one-dayers with 9378 runs between 1985 and 2000.

“I feel really happy at the judgement though the legal process took quite a long time,” was Azhar’s first reaction in an exclusive chat with ‘The Hindu’. “My conscience was always (clear) as I did nothing illegal right through my career. It is a pity that the life ban was imposed without proper evidence against me,” he said.

“My case has been very strong from the beginning. When you have done nothing in the alleged match-fixing scandal where is the need to be scared,” he countered to a question.

“Although it has taken a long time, I am pleased that the verdict is finally in my favour,” said Azhar.

Questioned whether he feels dejected at having missed out a chance to play a bit longer in international cricket (he played 99 Tests before the ban was imposed on him o December 5, 2000), a philosophical Azhar pointed out: “Well, these are the things you face in life. For, there are certain issues which are not in your control. Whatever is destined will happen. But, the best part of today’s verdict is that I have come out clean and proven many wrong.”

‘Yes, there were moments of agony and frustration when this issue constantly cropped up but again in my heart of hearts I knew I am clean,” said the 49-year-old Azhar, who is now Lok Sabha MP from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.

Azhar also felt it is too early to spell out his future plans – whether he will be trying to come into the BCCI fold of administration or offer services in any capacity. “Let me go through the judgement and then I will come out with my future course of action,” he said.

“It is definitely a huge moment of relief and joy. I have been waiting for this day ever since these wild allegations were made against me and I thank all those who stood by me all through this phase,” Azhar commented.

It may be mentioned here that BCCI banned Azhar along with another Test player Ajay Sharma while slapping a five-year ban on his former teammates Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar along with physiotherapist Ali Irani.

The then BCCI president AC Muthaiah remarked at the time of imposing the ban: “These are hard decisions taken after careful consideration with a view to set an example for the future.”

The BCCI conducted an internal inquiry following the publication of the CBI report then and K. Madhavan who led the inquiry concluded that Azharuddin was guilty of match-fixing and the three others had links with bookmakers.

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