New Delhi: In the wake of revelations made by the ICC's former chief anti-corruption investigator, Paul Condon, claiming that in the late 1990s, Test and World Cup matches were being routinely fixed, former Indian batsman Vinod Kambli, in an interview to a television channel, made a startling claim that the 1996 World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka could have been fixed.
Looking back at the infamous match that ended with Sri Lanka being declared winners because of crowd trouble at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, Kambli said that during the team meeting it had been decided that India would bat first should they win the toss. Thus, reckoned Kambli, captain Mohammad Azharuddin's decision to field was against the scheme of things. Kambli also said that there was a tiff between Ajit Wadekar, who was the manager of the team at that time, and Azhar because of a truncated practice session on the eve of the match.
He went on to say that the way the rest of the batsmen perished after Sachin Tendulkar had provided the team with a solid start was suspicious, and that it seemed like a deliberate attempt to throw away their wickets. Kambli also said that was he had been continuously asking the batsmen at the other end to give him support.
Kambli said Azharuddin's decision to field was against the scheme of things.
"Something was definitely amiss. However, I was not given a chance to speak and was dropped soon after. 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."
Wadekar, who was also on the show, refuted Kambli's claims and stuck to the stand that the decision taken in the team meeting was that India would field first on winning the toss.
Sri Lanka won the first semi-final over India at Eden Gardens in 1996. When chasing a total of 251-8, the hosts slumped to 120-8 in the 35th over and that led to crowd disturbance.
The players left the field for 20 minutes in an attempt to quieten the crowd. When the players returned for play, more bottles were thrown onto the field, forcing match referee Clive Lloyd to award the match to Sri Lanka, the first default win ever in Test or one-day international.