Vinod Kambli on 17/11/2011 claimed that Cricket World Cup semi-final in Calcutta in 1996 could have been fixed. The team had decided to bat first if it won toss as in quarter-final against Pakistan it had batted first and won the match. Mohammed Azharuddin had won the toss. Navjot Singh Sidhu had padded up. Mohammed Azharuddin elected to field. Vinod Kambli was stunned. Sri Lanka batted first. India batting second went from 98/1 to 120/8 and there was crowd trouble. Match referee Clive Lloyd stopped the play and awarded the match to Sri Lanka. Vinod Kambli was in tears. Sri Lanka went to final and won the World Cup. India could have won the World Cup. He said he was made a scapegoat, shunned by team members and his career was over.
Mohammed Azharuddin contradicted Vinod Kambli. He said the decision to field first was a team decision and Vinod Kambli was perhaps sleeping when the decision was taken. In a previous match Sri Lanka had batted second and had defeated India. He said Vinod Kambli has no character, uneducated and uncouth. Sourav Ganguly suggested Mohammed Azharuddin should sue Vinod Kambli as whispers go around. Sanjay Manjrekar backed Mohammed Azharuddin. Ajit Wadekar who was manager said he and Navjot Singh Sidhu wanted to bat first but to field first was a team decision.
Some have questioned Vinod Kambliâ€™s motive and timing. What was he doing for 15 years? He played ODIs after that and his last ODI was in 2000. Some said he was frustrated and desperate for attention.
There has been talk that Indians were told to lose the match to avoid playing in Pakistan. Some years later Mohammed Azharuddin was found guilty of match-fixing and banned for life. Ajay Jadeja was banned for five years. Two other cricketers were banned for some years.
Vinod Kambliâ€™s statement came after Paul Condon, former head of ICCâ€™s anti-corruption unit, said every international team in 1990s fixed games and spot-fixing began in World Cup 2003 in South Africa. He blamed proliferation of spot-fixing partly on popularity of Twenty20 cricket.
It does not matter Vinod Kambli did not speak for 15 years. He played in the match. The matter needs to be investigated. Mohammed Azharuddin is Congress MP. Navjot Singh Sidhu is BJP MP. Sachin Tendulkar continues to play. All cricketers in the Indian team at the time must be questioned.
On 3/11/2011 for the first time cricketers were sent to jail for spot-fixing. Salman Butt was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment. He was the captain. Mohammad Asif was sentenced to one year imprisonment. Mohammad Amir was sentenced to six months detention. He was 18 years old when he bowled the no ball. Mazhar Majeed the fixer was sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment.
On earlier occasions cricketers found guilty of match-fixing were banned for life or for some years. There was no imprisonment. In this case it happened in England. Southwark Crown Court in London sentenced the cricketers to jail. The punishment could have been seven years for accepting corrupt payments. The cricketers got off lightly. Other countries can follow Englandâ€™s example and prosecute cricketers involved in match-fixing or spot-fixing. In India they can be prosecuted for cheating and criminal breach of trust or treason. There is no need for a separate law for match-fixing or spot-fixing. In England the cricketers were prosecuted for conspiracy to cheat and accepting corrupt payments.
Spot-fixing was exposed by News of the World which closed down some months back due to the revulsion caused by its phone-hacking of a dead victim. ICCâ€™s anti-corruption unit did not discover any match-fixing or spot-fixing. Veena Malik had exposed Mohammad Asifâ€™s connection to an Indian bookie and no action was taken.
Jail term will act as a deterrent to cricketers who want to engage in illegal activities. They may not think much about ban for a few years or a life ban but going to jail is not a prospect they relish.
Besides cricketers, umpires and officials also should be investigated for match-fixing or spot-fixing. There have been dubious decisions or wrong decisions. Sometimes officials interfere in the game. The investigation can begin with Jaywant Lele who had predicted India would lose Test series 0-3 in Australia when Sachin Tendulkar was the captain. Either he was a match-fixer or he knew the match-fixers. The argument that it was a coincidence that his prediction came true is not valid. There are no coincidences.
Indians hoped that India will do well in Trent Bridge Test. India will win and it will be 1-1.
On Day 1 England were all out 221. At one time they were 124/8. India were 24/1. On Day 2 India were all out 288, a lead of 67 runs. At one time they were 267/4. England were 24/1. On Day 3 Indiaâ€™s bowling was not successful. England dominated. The day began with Vaseline controversy. Till tea break India had the chance of winning or drawing the Test. After Ian Bell run-out controversy it was downhill for India. England finished the day 441/6, a lead of 374 runs. On that day England scored 417 runs on a single day, highest since 1954. After tea break India did not have the will to fight. Something was seriously wrong. It seems there was a split in the team and many players were demoralised. On day 4 England were all out 544. India were all out 158 in 47.4 overs and lost the Test by 319 runs. Sachin Tendulkar was the top scorer with 56. Harbhajan Singh scored 46, Rahul Dravid 6, V. V. S. Laxman 4, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 0. The match was over within four days.
Ian Bell had a reprieve during World Cup some months back. That time he and everyone else knew he was out but he continued as umpire had not given him out. That time it was question of rules and there was no question of spirit of the game. After that incident UDRS rule changed for World Cup.
What went wrong? Batting was supposed to become more difficult every day. How is that even English tail enders batted well and Indians failed? India went into the series as No. 1 team. After two consecutive Test defeats that ranking is in doubt. Dhoni said our bowlers were tired and our batsmen were unable to live up to the challenge. His own form is a concern. Kapil Dev said out bowlers donâ€™t play Ranji or three day matches. They play one day or T20 matches. Hence they are unable to bowl long spells.
India have to win the remaining two Tests to draw the series and retain No. 1 ranking. No team can remain No. 1 for ever but India lost the Lordâ€™s Test and performed badly in Trent Bridge Test. Excuses will not do. Players get injured and their absence should not be the reason as others take their place. Some say missing the West Indies tour was the reason for poor performance of some players. Sunil Gavaskar had said that those who want rest and do not want to go to West Indies should be given permanent rest. Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan had missed the tour. Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan got injured at Lordâ€™s and were out of Trent Bridge Test. Yuvraj Singh who replaced Gautam Gambhir could have been sent to open batting. Some blame BCCIâ€™s refusal to have UDRS for LBW decisions as reason for Indiaâ€™s defeat as Harbhajan Singh was wrongly given out and some English batsmen were not given out LBW.
After the Test when asked about Ian Bellâ€™s return Dhoni said it was not about rule or spirit of the game but about feeling good. They did not feel good about the way he was out. Really? In that case the players who did not feel good should not be in the team. If all players did not feel good the whole team should be back in India and another team should be sent. In 2004 BJP campaigned on feel good factor and it lost the election.
The series had a sideshow of one ad featuring Dhoni making fun of an ad featuring Harbhajan Singh. Then another ad featuring Gautam Gambhir endorsing the product Harbhajan Singh endorsed.
Before the Test there was also a controversy about Indian cricketers not attending the reception by Indian High Commissioner and attending Dhoniâ€™s charity auction. BCCI said there was communication gap. When Mohinder Singh Gill was sports minister he had derecognised BCCI as a national sports organisation. It was not proper for Indian High Commissioner to invite a team that is not sent by a recognised national sports organisation. Once the players did not attend the reception there was no need to go public about it and the matter should have been closed. There is supposed to be another reception once the players return to London. Now that the players have done badly there may not be much enthusiasm to meet them.
It is possible for India to win the remaining two Tests and level the series. I hope they will.