If Vinod Kambli felt so strongly about the matter, why didn't he approach the BCCI or the Justice YV Chandrachud Commission going into the match-fixing allegations and tell all he had to?

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Vinod Kambli’s sensational outburst on a television news channel is another chapter in the match-fixing allegations saga. With the spot-fixing controversy and the subsequent sentencing of the Pakistani trio, the mud-slinging has begun again and threatens to mar the sport in the days ahead.

 

The year 2011 has witnessed a number of claims on the controversial subject without being backed by credibility evidence.

 

Earlier this year, it was Hashan Tillikeratne who claimed that the corrupt practice was prevalent in Sri Lanka for almost two decades. A few days ago we heard Lord Condon, the former chief of International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit, say that match-fixing was rampant in the 1980s and ’90s. Kambli has joined the finger-pointing bandwagon.

 

Before making such statements on national television, Kambli should have remembered that his credibility is not too high. Indian crowds remember Kambli as a case of wasted talent. His attitude and behavioral issues, all too well known, has robbed him off a successful and lucrative career.

 

Furthermore, he didn’t help his cause by speaking against the revered Sachin Tendulkar on the television show Sach Ka Samna a few years ago. That appearance on the reality show was the coup de grace in bringing down his public standing to rock bottom.

 

In his latest antic, Kambli talked about the 1996 World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka. On a crumbling surface at Eden Gardens, Mohammed Azharuddin elected to field first and the Lankans put up 251 on the board after initial struggles. When India batted, they slipped from being 98 for one at one stage to 120 for eight. Clive Lloyd, the match referee stopped play and awarded the game to Sri Lanka after the crowds starting behaving in an unruly manner. Kambli, who was the last recognised batsman at the crease left the field in tears – a picture that haunted Indian fans for years.

 

The game at Kolkata and many other instances have proved that Kambli is a very unstably emotional, whose feelings can get the better of him. In the aftermath of the said game, Kambli was dropped and made stop-start appearances in one-dayers till his last game in 2000. He also said that it had effectively ended his career and thrown him off the track.

 

Was it Kambli himself or his regret at the consequences of that game making those allegations? The fact that it started his slide may have played on his mind and made him question the credibility of the proceedings.  This incident seems to be similar to his Sach Ka Samna appearance where he said that Tendulkar could have helped him a lot more to resurrect is career by saving him from his “self destructive behavior”. Thus, keeping his past in mind, Indian fans would be apprehensive to accept or even believe in him.

 

On the other hand, the proceedings of that game were absolutely shocking. The way the Indians lost their wickets stunned the cricket world, though that it cannot be proved that they threw their wickets away as Kambli alleges. At one point they were sailing with Tendulkar playing a knock which would have been a gem had India been on the right side of the result. Once he fell, India cricket’s 1990s syndrome took effect as all the other batsmen followed him to the pavilion.

 

Such a turnaround rocked the fans’ beliefs and they didn’t hide their feeling. To add to that, three member of that team (playing eleven) bore the brunt of the match fixing scandal a few years later. While Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja were banned, Nayan Mongia was absolved off his involvement.

 

But again, are these facts enough to point fingers at that game. Kambli says that the team had decided that they would bat if the toss went in their favour and was surprised to know the opposite. One must remember that the Sri Lankan team loved chasing during that tournament and putting them in their zone of comfort could have been suicidal. Azharuddin has responded by saying that the decision was taken keeping in mind India’s defeat (while defending a total) to the same opposition earlier in the tournament (Vinod Kambli is talking absolute rubbish: Mohammad Azharuddin).

 

Secondly, one could see that the pitch was full of demons when India began their chase and the Sri Lankan spinners thrived on its help. It was only a batsman of Tendulkar’s genius who could adjust.

 

Finally, Kambli says that he cried because he felt that he was robbed off an opportunity to win the game for the country. Batting with 10 (from 29 balls) to his name and more than 130 to get from 15.5 overs with two wickets in hand, did he think it was realistically possible to take India home? His own 29-ball vigil reflects the fact that he hadn’t come to terms with the questions posed by the pitch.

 

There have been quite a few corners in the media who suggested that he could have approached the authorities when Azhar and the others were being questioned around 2000-01. If we consider Kambli’s point of view, mere suspicions are not enough to move towards the authorities and it may have stopped him from doing so. Only if he had some concrete proof could he have approached them and revealed what he knows and not what he “suspects.”

 

It is clear that Kambli has created a storm again and it threatens to engulf him like some other “self destructive” ones have in the past. To have suspicions is a normal human tendency and he may have just voiced them. But without any evidence back them, it would have been safer for him to keep quiet and stay away from this mess.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)