Former Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin on Friday lashed out at Vinod Kambli for hinting that India’s 1996 World Cup semi-final cricket match could have been fixed, saying the allegations have been made by a person who lacks character and were "absolutely rubbish".
"Absolutely rubbish, whatever he (Kambli) is talking. He doesn’t know what he is talking, when you have people who have no character and no background come on TV and talk absolute rubbish in front of the nation and demeaning all the players who played in the team, it is totally disrespectful and its very sad," a livid Azhar told reporters.
Azhar, who was the Indian captain at that time, said the decision to field first was a collective decision. "May be when he was sitting in the meeting, he must have been sleeping," he added.
Kambli, a former Indian cricketer who has often been embroiled in controversies both on and off the field, yesterday raised suspicion on the 1996 World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka and said he found "something amiss" in the game.
"I will never forget the 1996 match because my career ended after this and I was dropped from the team. I was stunned by India’s decision to field," Kambli had said.
Azhar, however, refuted all the allegations leveled against him saying it was a team decision to field after winning the toss.
"It was a team decision which was taken by all the team members that when we win the toss we will field. Whatever he is talking is absolutely rubbish and nonsense".
Azhar also refuted the claims that Kambli was made a scapegoat, saying the cricketer got enough chances to prove himself but failed to capitalise on the opportunities.
"He is not made a scapegoat. First of all the way he played his cricket, everybody knows how he played his cricket and what he used to do. So he cannot say he has been made a scapegoat, because he got selected again in 1998 but got injured in one of the matches where he was substituting for some player, I don’t know when…in Cuttack or some other place," Azhar said.
"I think if he had taken his cricket seriously he wouldn’t be in this position now," the former captain added.
Azhar said the only reason behind India’s defeat against Sri Lanka in the contentious semi-final match at Eden Gardens was that the team did not perform up to the mark.
"We played badly, we lost the match. There is nothing to do with toss or batting first or fielding first. If you don’t play well you lose the match, as simple as that," said Azhar.
The cricketer also rebutted the call for a probe into the match saying will you have a probe for every match India lost.
"Why should there be a probe after so many years. What is the probe you are talking about, I don’t know why people talk about this probe, then for every match there is probe," Azhar said.
Meanwhile, the then manager of the Indian team and former captain, Ajit Wadekar, doubted the timing of Kambli’s statement.
"My question is, if he knew everything, why did he wait for 15 years," Wadekar said.
Kambli had yesterday claimed that Wadekar knew everything about the incident and had even criticised the decision.
"Our team manager at that time Ajit Wadekar was aware of everything. He had even written an article afterwards that Vinod Kambli had been made a scapegoat," he said.
Wadekar, however, said that electing to field first was a collective decision as the team felt that Sri Lankan’s were good chasers.
"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," Wadekar said.
Wadekar added that even though he and Sandeep Patil were of the opinion that the wicket would turn, the team still decided to field keeping in mind the chasing prowess of the Sri Lankans.
Former cricketers Arun Lal and Atul Wassan also criticised Kambli for raking up the issue after nearly 15 years.
"Kambli’s credibility is a problem, I dont know why he is talking about it after so many years", Wassan pointed out.(PTI)