Former India captain Mohd. Azharuddin has lashed out at Vinod Kambli for raising doubts about why he chose to field against Sri Lanka after winning the toss in the 1996 World Cup semifinal which India lost.
“This is ridiculous, absolutely baseless and part of the cheap campaign by people like Kambli. I played in the true spirit of the game and am fed up with such allegations against me every time the match-fixing debate arises,” said a visibly agitated Azhar.
“Kambli should know in his heart of hearts how I supported him when there were serious complaints against him for repeated breaches of discipline,” the former captain said.
“This is the cheapest gimmick adopted by him, probably, to be in the limelight again. And, I wonder why he is making these comments now, 15 years after the World Cup semifinal loss? Who stopped him from airing these views earlier?” Azhar asked.
“I will not take seriously any comments attributed to me or to my decisions as India captain. No one can question my credentials and my patriotism,” said Azhar, reiterating that he had already been a victim of baseless propaganda for about a decade now.
“I also do not wish to engage in any debate on ICC Anti-Corruption chief Paul Condon's report. I don't think I need to comment on this,” Azhar said.
“It was a collective decision to field since our opponents were chasing well in all the previous matches. There was a discussion and many felt that they should bat first.”
Former left-arm spinner S.L. Venkatapathy Raju supported Azhar. “That wicket was always dry and would take turn later on,” said Raju, who played in that game. “Vinod Kambli's comments are uncalled for. And, what purpose do they serve now? If he has proof let him come out instead of making wild allegations,” said Raju.
PTI adds from New Delhi:
Kambli on Thursday raised suspicion on the 1996 World Cup semifinal between India and Sri Lanka and said he found “something amiss” in the game.
Kambli was participating in a TV debate on Paul Condon's statement that in the '90s and in the following years all of cricket's leading countries were involved in fixing major matches.
Wadekar denies charge
Meanwhile, Ajit Wadekar, the team manager then, said electing to field was a collective decision as the team felt the Sri Lankans were good chasers.
“In the team meeting before the match it was decided that India would field in the event of winning the toss,” Wadekar said.
Former captain Sourav Ganguly also said, just because India batted second in the match didn't mean that it was fixed and Kambli should back up his claims with solid proof.