So former cricketer Vinod Kambli has come out with another match-fixing allegation over the 1996 World Cup semi-final in which India crashed from 98-1 to 120-8.
It will probably join the umpteen unproven accusations that have been hurled at in the last few decades, even though the Delhi Police has shown some interest in the matter.
People may remember that the Chandrachud Commission of 1997 dismissed all allegations for lack of evidence. I remember that I had managed to meet and ask the late Justice YV Chandrachud about it and he categorically stated that it was impossible to legally prove match-fixing!
Azhar rubbishes Kambli's claims
At best one could investigate money disproportionate to a cricketer's income, or get a bookie or cricketer to confess their crimes. But you couldn't actually legally prove that a batsman deliberately threw his wicket away.
After more than a decade, that still holds true. Late South African captain admitted to match-fixing while the first convictions (Salman Butt and Co.) came on the back of solid evidence in the form of video footage. And that too as late as 2011!
Saleem Malik, Ata-ur-Rehman and Ajay Jadeja all saw their bans being overturned. Even Mohammed Azharuddin is fighting his case in court. You have to agree that while bans have taken place, convictions have been extremely rare.
But the problem with the latest allegations from Kambli is that they hold absolutely no water. That's part of the myths that were floating around at that time and which persist to this very day.Myth 1: The decision to field first was wrong
There was a myth that Azhar would field first for no rhyme or reason. One example cited is the Lord's Test of 1990 which was a batting beauty. When Azhar won the toss and decided to field, rival captain Graham Gooch couldn't believe his ears.
All the commentators had a field day when Gooch scored a triple century to take his team to 653-4 declared and they romped home by 247 runs. However, Azhar decided to field first in only about 9 of his 29 Tests as captain.Azharuddin's decision to field first in 1996 World Cup semis stunned me: Kambli
We were considered to be very poor chasers in the 1990s so why would Azhar always field first in ODIs asked a lot of his critics. Here also it is interesting to look at the statistics.
In the 96 times that Azhar won the toss in ODIs, he chose to bat first 40 times as against fielding first 56 times. Shouldn't it be the other way round if we were poor chasers? But scratch the statistics a bit further and you get interesting results.
Batting first, Azhar won only 45% of his matches. Fielding first, he won 64%! So Azhar was right after all.
Add that to the fact that the only two successful World Cup final chases have come on the sub-continent (in 1996 and 2011). In fact the closest chase was also on the sub-continent in 1987 when England lost to Australia by a mere 7 runs.
Then there's also the dew factor.
All in all it makes sense to field first in a World Cup knock-out match on the sub-continent and that is exactly what Azhar did.
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In fact had he decided to bat first, then that would have gone against the grain.Myth 2: Batting collapses like the Indian semi-final are rare
The World Cup knock-out stages are littered with spectacular collapses.
In the 1975 semi-final, England crashed to 93 all out in 60 overs. If that was to be a cakewalk, the Aussies found themselves at 39/6, but still managed to overhaul the target without any further loss of wickets.
In the 1992 World Cup, Pakistan collapsed throughout the tournament and still managed to win the title.
With England they were 74 all down in the leagues. In the semis, they were reeling in their chase, but saved by a brilliant 37-ball 60 by Inzamam-ul-Haq. In the finals too they were reeling at 24-2 when a super-slow Imran Khan innings was countered by a brisk one from Inzamam to take them to a respectable 249.
In the 1999 Pakistan crashed to 132 all out. Everyone cried match-fixing. But look at most Pakistan crunch matches which they have either won or lost. They have consistently performed badly in the first half of their batting. They either bail themselves out in the second half or they don't. It's as simple as that.
In the 2003 semis, a very consistent Sri Lanka found themselves at 123-7.
Then what of South Africa? They have choked in every knock-out they have ever played in the world cup! The worst which comes to mind is their 149 all out in the 2007 semis.More on Sports
There's also the 112 all down by the West Indies in the 2011 quarters.
All in all sub-150 scores are extremely common in world cup knock-outs. Either most players can't handle the pressure, or many more matches have been fixed!Myth 3: Azhar used to deliberately get himself run out
That's another grouse people had against Azhar: That he seemed to deliberately get run out. One TV channel even showed frame by frame how he seemed to be doing it on purpose in one match-fixing programme.
Again, statistics tell a different story. Azhar played 334 ODIs and got run out 32 times in them. How does that compare to say someone like the legendary Steve Waugh? Waugh got run out 27 times in his 325 matches. Doesn't seem like much of a difference.
In fact that has more to do with being a lazy runner or a good runner. A slow Inzamam was run out 40 times for his 378 matches while a good runner like MS Dhoni has only been run out 11 times for his 196 matches.
On the whole, all this ''circumstantial evidence'' gets you nowhere and you're back to square one.
Match-fixing will continue to be one of cricket's biggest mysteries and delayed Kambli-type accusations without any concrete evidence whatsoever will only add to the confusion.
You can also be sure that after the spot-fixing sting, players will be much more careful in the future.The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/