'I want to clear my name from match-fixing' - Azhar
Mohammad Azharuddin, the legendary Indian batsman, has said he has given up hopes of playing for India but was fighting his case in the court of law to get his name cleared from match-fixing.
"I have no hopes of playing for India. But I want to get my name cleared," Azharuddin was quoted as saying in Press Trust of India. "I am expecting that the final hearing of my case will be in May before the judgment is announced."
Azhar was slapped with a life ban while Manoj Prabhakar, the former Indian fast bowler also involved in the scandal, was banned for five years in 2000. The court exonerated Ajay Jadeja who was earlier banned for life by the Indian board.
Azhar however, refused to comment on whether he was made a scapegoat by the BCCI. "The matter is sub-judice and I cannot comment on that," Azhar said. "But I firmly believe that the whole issue was blown out of proportion. I was destined to play 99 Tests, that's the way I look at it. If I can play 99 Tests, I could have played one more," he said when asked if he was deliberately prevented by the BCCI from achieving a personal milestone.
However, Azhar, 43, said he cannot be banned from cricketing activities. "I don't need any permission from anyone to play charity or veteran's cricket. I cannot play in BCCI or ICC approved or sanctioned tournaments. Veterans' cricket is a different body that is neither controlled nor governed by the BCCI or ICC."
Meanwhile the Pakistan Senior Cricket Board (PSCB) gave a new twist to the Veteran Cup controversy, claiming it was the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which allowed Azharuddin and Manoj Prabhakar to play in Pakistan. Fawad Ijaz, the PSCB president and chief executive, told a news conference that the "Pakistan High Commission granted visas to the entire Indian cricket team, including Azharuddin and Prabakar, to travel to Pakistan for the one-day matches on the advice of the PCB.
"When we applied for the no-objection certificate with the PCB, the names of the Indian team were clearly stated. The PCB issued us the NOC on the basis of which the Indians were issued visas in New Delhi," Ijaz said. "Issuing of the NOC, followed up New Delhi granting visas clarifies that the entire Indian team is here with the permission and knowledge of the PCB."
Ijaz's remark came in the wake of Shaharyar Khan, the PCB chairman, disassociating his establishment from Azharuddin and Prabhakar's visit. "The senior cricket board is operating on their own and they have invited Azharuddin and Prabhakar," Shaharyar had said. "The senior board is not affiliated with the PCB so they are holding this series on their own."
The veterans' cricket board of India today came out in support of Azharuddin and Prabhakar, saying both were technically eligible to take part in the veterans' tournament against Pakistan. Chetan Chauhan, former cricketer and President of Board for Veteran Cricket in India, said: "Prabhakar's five-year ban is over and Azharuddin is banned from playing Test and first class cricket. Veterans' cricket does not fall under any of these two categories. So both are eligible to play.
"The veterans' series is more of a friendly one to improve relationship between the two countries. Since Azharuddin is playing all sorts of festival cricket, there is no harm in his participation in it,"
However, Chauhan refused to draw any comparison between Malik, who was prevented from taking part in the series, and the two Indian players. "Salim Malik's case is different, "he said. "In their country, Justice Qayoom Commission has banned him from all forms of cricket. So he is not eligible to play veterans' cricket."