Dubai: Vinod Kambli has done it again. This time, he has come in for heavy criticism for his revelation that the 1996 World Cup semifinal may have been ‘fixed.'
His claim is being rubbished to the extent that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) does not even want to investigate it — a decision that has a lot to do with Kambli's credibility as a cricketer who destroyed himself due to his inability to focus on the game.
As a reporter in Mumbai, I used to follow the rise of both Kambli and Sachin Tendulkar from their school days. In those days, it was difficult to gauge who was a better player. And today, if Tendulkar makes a comment, it makes the cricket world listen with captivated attention while his school friend and teammate's remark is dumped as trash.
To understand Kambli's psyche, one has to analyse his personality. During school days, he was often hailed as more talented than Tendulkar — blessed with a natural ability and more graceful strokemaking.
Unfortunately, while Tendulkar focused on his game, Kambli's attention moved to areas outside cricket. He enjoyed the company of friends who were always around their hero and preferred to spend more time with them, while Tendulkar spent time sharpening his skills. Yet, Kambli would always come back and score runs as much as, or sometimes, even more than his friend.
For such a man, to find his teammate and friend race past him to establish himself as an institution must be shattering. Kambli's earlier remark on a television channel in 2009 that Tendulkar did not help him was nothing but an outpouring of his suppressed emotions. Tendulkar had ensured that he built a wall around him to keep away those friends, including Kambli. Hence his ‘complaint' against Tendulkar, which met with only silence from the master batsman, was also seen as a rant.
Kambli's recent remark on the 1996 semi-final as a fixed one is being seen by most as a ‘senile' statement. Sharad Pawar, the International Cricket Council (ICC) president, has remarked that he would have believed the claims had it come from the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly or the coach and team manager Ajit Wadekar. Tendulkar, who had opened the innings in the 1996 semi-final against Sri Lanka and was going great guns till the collapse started, has neither confirmed or denied Kambli's remark.
Kambli has now antagonised all his former colleagues and the Indian cricket board officials at one go.
Is Kambli so naive, so as to destroy any chance of him occupying any cushy position in the Indian cricket board as a former cricketer?
Those who claim he destroyed himself as a cricketer should not forget that his Test match average is a highly impressive 54.20. The least one can do is at least conduct an inquiry into this match.
The allegation that why Kambli remained silent for so long has no substance, because one recently saw Lord Paul Condon, the chief of the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU), confirming after so many years that most of the late 1990's World Cup matches and Test matches were routinely fixed. Are we to believe that Lord Condon's statements too were as rubbish as Kambli's claims?
The degree of a cricketer's success should not be taken as the criteria to measure the veracity of the subject.
After all, both Hansie Cronje and Mohammad Azharuddin — who were banned in connection with match-fixing — were hugely successful as cricketers and captains.