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Team-mates deny Kambli allegation

ESPNcricinfo staff

November 18, 2011

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

A controversy has arisen over a statement made by Vinod Kambli, the former India batsman, that he "doubted" crucial decisions made during the 1996 World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka in Kolkata. Several of Kambli's team-mates in that match, including captain Mohammed Azharuddin, and the team manager Ajit Wadekar, have denied the allegations.

Kambli said, in an emotional interview with television channel Star News in India on Thursday, that he "doubted" the semi-final. He said the team had decided at its pre-match meeting to bat first if India won the toss and he had noticed that opener Navjot Sidhu had padded up before the toss, as was his habit, indicating that if India won the toss, he would be batting first.

Kambli then said he was surprised when India decided to field first. The semi-final was abandoned following crowd trouble after India, chasing 252, were 120 for 8 - they were 98 for 1 at one stage - with Kambli unbeaten on 10. Kambli said in the interview that he would never forget the match because his career had ended after that game. "This ended my career. I was dropped from the team, I was made the scapegoat," he said. Kambli was not available for comment following his TV interview.

Saba Karim, the former India wicketkeeper who also appeared on the programme, told ESPNcricinfo that he had reminded Kambli that his career did not end then. "I said to him, Vinod, you played for India after that, we played together in Canada." After the World Cup semi-final on March 13, 1996, Kambli played 35 ODIs for India.

Azharuddin, appearing on CNN-IBN, sought to dismiss Kambli's allegations. "Absolutely rubbish. [He] doesn't know what he is talking about." Azharuddin said a "team decision" to field first was made at a meeting where, "Everyone was there, including the manager. Kambli must have been sleeping during the team meeting." He said that after a discussion India had decided to field first. He conceded there were different points of view at the meeting but said the final decision was taken collectively.

Azharuddin was handed a life ban by the BCCI in 2000 after a federal inquiry found him guilty of match-fixing. He denied the charges and is awaiting judgement on a suit filed by him.

After the Indian sports minister Ajay Maken called for an investigation into Kambli's claims, BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla denied any further action was needed. "The BCCI had decided to ban Azhar on the basis of CBI report and there are no new circumstances to review the decision."

Sharad Pawar, the ICC president, also rejected the claims. "Kambli's allegations are not logical. If he had concentrated on his game, we might have got another Sachin Tendulkar."

Sanjay Manjrekar, another member of that team, also sought to dismiss the allegation on Twitter. "1996 world cup semi-final - The decision to field first may have turned out to be a wrong decision but it was an honest cricketing decision."

Ajit Wadekar, who also spoke to Kambli on Star News on Thursday night, said the decision to field first had been based on the Sri Lankan team's excellent record at chasing scores at the World Cup. "The entire team felt that the Sri Lanka players were good chasers. Hence, the team felt that if India fielded first, Sri Lanka could be easily defeated. In the team meeting before the match it was decided that India would field in the event of winning the toss. The decision was taken after consultation with the entire team."

Former national selector Venkatapathy Raju, who also played that match, said that in the meeting Navjot Sidhu was the only person who believed they should have been batting first because the wicket was dry. Raju, speaking to Star News, called it "surprising" that Kambli was claiming this after 15 years.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2011, 4:14 GMT)

this is an important piece of article.....on a very important issue which was in headlines lately....then why is this article way down the pecking order??? and no updates on it regarding the statement of indian sports minister that it will inquire the issue?????

Posted by njr1330 on (November 20, 2011, 13:25 GMT)

If you look at the scorecard for that match, the first 3 SL batsmen scored 1,0 and 1. At that stage, fielding first must have looked like a good idea!

Posted by Devapriya on (November 20, 2011, 13:05 GMT)

Well, the decision looked like the correct one after the first over - when both explosive openers were dismissed for ducks! Whatever the dryness of the wicket one has to admit Sri Lanka played smarter cricket on the day and anyway were detined to win the world cup.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2011, 12:22 GMT)

still remember that match.Sri lanka thrashed us chasing a reasonable score in Delhi during qualifying rounds.We were sure that India will not bat first in the semis.Azhar was not a gutsy captain.He had made a similar error in lords test in early 90s,Sending in England and Goochie hit a triple hundred in a match we evantually lost.Many times I wondered how Azhar was made captain in the first place.His batting was imperious though.

Posted by shivendash on (November 19, 2011, 21:58 GMT)

Kambli was a test batsman and when he meant that HE DIDN'T play another match, he meant 'Test matches". He played 35 odis though till sachin was captain.

Posted by M_Khan on (November 19, 2011, 17:06 GMT)

What article did not describe is the circumstances in which the decision to bat first was taken. I was also in favor of batting first, BUT only reluctantly. Lankans were simply demolishing any target set to them, then why a thought of batting first? The Calcutta pitch at that time and conditions during night. The dry pitch gets worse and more than the ball starts drifting a lot during night. It doesnt happen immediately but slowly in the second innings. Thats the reason why Tendulkar and to some extent Manjrekar were able to make some runs and even before they were dismissed, the writing was very much the walls, THEY JUST MANAGED TO SURVIVE LAST FEW OVERS and the required run rate almost touched 6. Jayasuriya looked as deadly as Kumble on a dust bowl. In the mayhem that followed, Kambli survived only coz thats what he was trying to do!

Posted by ElPhenomeno on (November 19, 2011, 17:03 GMT)

We will never know what truly happened. If BCCI had enough evidence to ban Azhar who was the captain all those years then who knows what was going on all that time. I saw and remember that match like it was yesterday. Sachin was there and playing well and as soon as he got out it was almost a comedy of errors that saw indian team fall apart. It was also well known that wicket was going to favour the team batting first. There are a lot of things that look funny but you don't question because you kind of assume and believe that everyone is giving it their all. We tend to believe sportsmen, that as a fan is almost always my default belief. Sad as it maybe, I question a lot of things I see nowadays.

Posted by stormy16 on (November 19, 2011, 16:47 GMT)

This is absurd! There is no way in the wide anyone would do anything but try to win a WC semi final least of all India at home in cricket!!

Posted by Bilal_Choudry on (November 19, 2011, 16:20 GMT)

this requires inquiry at least other wise it is just going to be played out in public which is not good ... the fact is that 3 members of this indian squad were later found to be involved in fixing ... now that this has come out in the open it has to be investigated

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 14:48 GMT)

seriously who actually cares about this now!!!! we're world champs now! lol

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