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  Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 14:24 GMT
Azharuddin - the social pariah
Mohammad Azharuddin
Azharuddin 's battle has only just begun
By Sandeep Singh, Indian journalist

The social stigma attached to the match-fixing allegations has sent former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin into a self-imposed exile even as the country's legal luminaries ponder over the possibility of legal action against those charged for having a nexus with bookies and influencing the result of matches.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India's action against Azharuddin is just the beginning of a long-drawn battle for the veteran cricketer, who for the past one month has remained cut off from the outside world apart from making an appearance in front of the BCCI-appointed investigator K.Madhavan and the Board's three-member Disciplinary Committee.

Azharuddin, facing the stiffest test of his life, has remained incommunicado after taking recluse in his home in Hyderabad's posh Banjara Hills residence while his friends have kept a steady distance from the one-time star of any cricketing do.

Azharuddin and Dickie Bird
Azharuddin is in dire need of friends
The change of scenario has been a dramatic one for the veteran Test cricketer, who led India for a decade spanning three successive World Cups.

Being the Indian captain elevated the unassuming, shy young cricketer to the elite strata of society in the cricket-mad country and made him one of the main attractions for corporates seeking stars to endorse their products.

Isolated

Suddenly the world around him has crumbled. Azharuddin today finds himself bereft of friends with even his former Hyderabad team-mates aloof from the disgraced cricketer.

The social stigma, following his indictment by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into match-fixing, has evidently taken a big toll on Azharuddin and forced his withdrawal from public life.

Manoj Prabhakar
Prabhakar could lose the Arjuna Award
Azharuddin was able to ride through several rough patches in his cricketing career and even confounded critics by reclaiming the Indian captaincy after being dropped from the side in 1997 following a lacklustre performance on the tour of West Indies the previous year.

His second comeback into the Indian side earlier this year - after the team's mauling in Australia - had its own share of controversy as Sachin Tendulkar quit the national captaincy.

It was no secret that the Indian team management had rejected Azharuddin's recall during the Australian tour and the resignation of Tendulkar was directly linked to the former skipper being picked despite his opposition.

Opulent lifestyle

Azharuddin acknowledged fascination for elite brand names and a glitzy life is now the moot point of debate in cricketing circles but the full impact of the match-fixing scandal is still to come home.

Notwithstanding the legal view that cases framed for fixing matches would not pass the formal scrutiny of the Indian courts - since the criminal laws have no provisions on this count - a section of the Indian government is determined to frame charges, specially against 'government servants' who can be charged for corruption.

Mohammad Azharuddin
Azharuddin's lifestyle has been questioned
Of the four players accused by the CBI, only Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma are deemed 'public servants' since they are employees of government-owned corporations.

The Sports Ministry has hinted as revoking the awards conferred on these 'tainted' cricketers.

The reference is to the prestigous Arjuna Award, the nation's highest sports award.

Award recipients

Of those accused of having links with bookmakers, Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar are the recipients of the Arjuna Award.

It is in terms of financial penalties that these cricketers might feel the biggest pinch.

The monetary fines are likely to come mainly in the form of income tax penalties.

Ajay Jadeja
Jadeja could face a hefty fine
After the breakout of the match-fixing scandal, Income Tax sleuths discovered concealed income during raids on several cricketers.

It is common knowledge that international stars live in luxury with the cricket-addicted country taking a lenient view of their affluent ways.

Beyond suspicion

Income generated in the form of appearance money from public functions, fund-raising matches or endorsements is rarely declared in full.

Few eyebrows were ever raised against cricketers. They were deemed 'special' people and handled with kid gloves. This is about to change dramatically for the ones accused of match-fixing.

The battle for regaining his erstwhie social status is proving to be the biggest problem confronting Azharuddin.

Besides, the BCCI could withhold his none-too-insignifiant provident fund - even though it might face a legal action on this count - and refuse to award him the lucrative 'benefit' match.

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