Mumbai: Soon after former India cricketer Vinod Kambli claimed that the infamous 1996 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens was fixed, the then manager of the Men in Blue, Ajit Wadekar rubbished all claims. Trashing all allegations, Wadekar first questioned the timing of the claims. "My question is, if he knew everything, why did he wait for 15 years," Wadekar said on Friday.
Kambli said he was suspicious of then captain Mohammed Azharuddin's decision to field first on winning the toss despite consensus in the team meeting that India would bat if they win the toss. He made these accusations during a show on Star News.
The allegations though have left his former manager fuming. "I am here to state the facts. What I can reveal is that we had a team meeting on the eve of the match and there were opinions and counter opinions. Few felt that we should bat first, while others were in favour of fielding. But eventually the decision to field first was unanimous and the captain (Azharuddin) chose to do accordingly when we won the toss," Wadekar revealed to MiD DAY.
Reacting to Kambli's claims, Wadekar also explained the logic of their decision to field first. "As a matter of fact, Sri Lanka were good chasers and that's why we were inclined to make them bat first so as to upset their rhythm. Unfortunately none of our ploys came good on the day. But that's part and parcel of the game," the former India skipper stated.
It may be recalled, Sri Lanka chased down India's challenging total of 271 in a group league match and thus registering a six-wicket win over India. Sachin Tendulkar scored a run-a-ball 137.
The 70-year-old though rated Kambli a quality cricketer. "I have no complaints about his cricketing abilities. He was a brilliant cricket, he just needed to be looked after," Wadekar felt. Asked about his off-field shenanigans, Wadekar didn't like to be drawn into that. "There shouldn't be any issue with off-the-field activities. What mattered was performance. As long as he was doing that, I had no problem," he said.
For the record, from 98-2, India slumped to 120-8 in reply to Sri Lanka's 252 before the unruly crowd disrupted the game and Sri Lanka were declared winners by default. They went on to beat Australia in the final at Lahore.