Arjuna Awards should not be taken away now: Kirti Azad

Waleed Hussain

December 24, 2000

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As the Core Committee meeting of the BCCI was underway at the CCI, the Parliamentarians and the CCI locked horns in a festival game for the Jaipal Trophy. During the match, former Test cricketer and now BJP MP Kirti Azad spoke to CricInfo on various issues relating to the match fixing scandal.

Q. Do you agree that the Arjuna Awards should be taken away from the tainted cricketers ?

A. I don't agree that such a step should be taken now. If there was a case registered against them, the decision would have come. Instead, there are more and more committees making more and more inquiries into the matter. Almost every day a new committee is formed to investigate the matter and also the report of the previous committee. So all these committees are there but no one knows anything concrete. Still it is not clear which match was fixed and who fixed it. It is just the word of one player against the word of the other in the matter. Even after so many committees and inquires, we still do not know anything clearly yet. I am not happy with the various reports. Considering the fact that the players were given the awards for performances in a certain match, if that match is proved to be fixed then I think the awards should be taken back. The bottom line is that they have to prove the facts. Till now it is only trial by the media, which has made a big issue out of it. The charges need to be proved first, only then can a firm decision be taken.

Q. How do you think match fixing originated ?

A. As far as I see it, cricket has always been very popular with the masses, but there was less coverage in the past. The only way to follow the matches was through radio commentary. With the introduction of TV and other media, it gained more popularity. More people became aware of it. By listening to the radio, one cannot understand what a gully is, or what a bail is. All Indians enjoy the game but the awareness came only after TV came into the picture. Slowly more and more people began following the game more closely and it all perhaps started as a joke in the office between colleagues and putting money on the results, all sportingly. Later, the betting amount became larger, as more and more people began following the game and small gambling syndicates started which may have led to the scenario that we have today.

Q. What do you suggest to stop match-fixing ?

A. It's like this. We all know that a person has been murdered, but we don't know who has been murdered. Like I said, it needs to be proved first. If we are able to pinpoint the match that was fixed, then the causes and the loop holes can be plugged. It is very difficult to suggest any measures, if you don't know the cause of the disease. Unless a firm decision comes up, there cannot be a logical suggestion to solve the issue.

Q. What action do you think should be taken ?

A. If it is proved, those involved can be tried under the gambling act. Even the punters or the bookies who have been in this episode should be tried under the act. If they are able to prove that players also are involved, they should also be tried under the same illegal gambling act.

Q. Do you justify the life ban on Azharuddin ?

A. I will not like to name any specific player here, but I do want to say that it is very hard on a player. I think they have suffered a lot through this. There should be a firm decision either way. Either they should be convicted or acquitted. One way should be taken. There is no point banning a player for some time and then reinstating him after he has been supposedly proved innocent.

Q. What is Parliament's reaction on the matter ?

A. Everyone is very passionate about cricket in India. Even the members in Parliament are also very hurt on this issue. It's a matter that concerns us all as Indians and not as parliamentarians or officers. I initiated the first action in this regard and voiced my opinion in the matter. Later when Hansie Cronje came up with the statements, we were all hurt. Since we are very passionate about the game, we would like to have a clear picture soon.

Q. Nayan Mongia was named to lead West Zone in the Duleep Trophy, Both Tendulkar and Agarkar opted out. Do you think the players are holding a grudge ?

A. No, I don't think that was the matter at all. In fact coach John Wright must have asked a couple of players to have some rest from cricket due to the hectic schedule that we have. So I think because Tendulkar and Agarkar were not available for the match, Mongia got the chance to lead the side.

Q. The Board has made it mandatory for the players to compete in domestic matches. Do you think the coach is over ruling the Board's decision ?

A. I think they would have had a chat and discussed the matter and come to a logical solution. I don't think Wright has violated or over ruled any of the Board's decisions.

Q. What is your reaction to the confrontation between Sunil Gavaskar and Raj Singh ?

A. It is very sad to see that people in such high positions are fighting over such egoistic matters. It is very sad for the game in India coming as it does after the match fixing scandal. The NCA in its first season produced talented boys who played for the country. I think it will be bad for cricket in general if people in such high positions act in such a manner. Cricket for us is more than a sport, it is a religion that binds us all. It is very sad that such great cricketers like Gavaskar are shown such treatment. We definitely need more people like Gavaskar to help Indian cricket.

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