A Cautionary Comeback When Ajay Jadeja recently appeared on a tv show uttering the phrases "ethics" and "sanctity of the dressing room", anyone with a working memory had two choices. To pick up the remote, uncork their best flat throw and smash the screen. Or think pots and kettles, count to a 110 and change channels.
Protagonists from cricket's match-fixing crisis that gutted a game and its fans are all around us. Some were named and shamed, others chastised quietly, their identities unveiled only later, and still others escaped punishment by yanking influential strings. Barring Hansie Cronje, those involved remain in the game, competing, passing judgement, or more cynically playing legends at large. Channel 9 hung onto Shane Warne through bookiegate and the drugs ban. Wasim Akram, all crooked-grinning charm, is among ESPN-Star's A Few Good Men even as the judge who inquired into the Pakistani match-fixing saga admits he was lenient with the star.
Is it then so objectionable if the bcci invites Mohammed Azharuddin to a function? It it reason enough for the icc to pulpit-bash? As long as the bcci doesn't go into denial about match-fixing or its handling of the issue, inviting Azhar is a gesture of graciousness from an institution not usually known for its grace. Azhar will never play for India again, but when he did, at his best his batting could stop clocks and his fielding could fit into any contemporary XI. Azhar has paid a terrible price and served his time in silence.
Infrequently seen, he has certainly not been heard spouting treatises on ethics. During his exile, he has called more than one Indian player to congratulate them on a good day and ask after their welfare.While it is foolish to think that all Azhar's teammates may have forgiven him, his name now provokes more bewilderment than anger. More than any of the others linked to the bookies, like Jadeja, it is Azhar who is given most benefit of doubt by his peers. The icc is free to leave him off all their podiums but to the bcci, Azhar's tragic career is a chapter that cannot-and should not-be erased. Mohammed Azharuddin's is a cautionary tale, but his story is still part of our story.