Azharuddin confident over appeal outcome

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The Independent Online

Hyderabad is Mohammad Azharuddin's home town and the fallen idol of Indian cricket visited the England team's hotel yesterday after they had arrived from Bombay.

Azharuddin was not there for lunch, but did have a brief chat with Nasser Hussain before going into a huddle with what looked like his legal team. Azharuddin is an old friend of Hussain's father, Joe, though without his trademark moustache, the England captain took a moment to recognise him.

As one of only three men worldwide banned for match-fixing – the others are Hansie Cronje and Ajay Sharma – Azharuddin is still protesting his innocence. Next Monday, he is hoping to hear the verdict over his appeal against the Board of Control for Cricket in India, who a year ago, handed him a life ban.

"They've got nothing on me," he said in the lobby of the Taj Krishna hotel. "They have found nothing of all the money I'm meant to have. They say I've got 16 crore rupees (£2,350,000) hidden away. But where is it? It is not in my accounts."

The judge's verdict will be keenly awaited, not least by the International Cricket Council. Under their new chief executive, Malcolm Speed, the ICC really need the three men to remain banned as a deterrent. Cronje failed to overturn his ban but Azharuddin may spring a surprise. If he does, the credibility of the ICC and the game would be challenged.

Although the CBI claimed Azharuddin had admitted three counts of fixing one-day internationals to them, the player denied it once their report came out in October 2000. His case against the Board and the CBI's chief investigator, K Madhavan, was filed last January.

"I've been in cricket for 17 years and know lots of bad things about the Board," said Azharuddin, who has been filling his time doing fashion work. "But I'm not going to start telling them now."

Meanwhile, Kapil Dev, who quit as India coach last year after denying allegations of match-fixing and vowed never to return, is to coach the country's fast bowlers for the 2003 World Cup.

* A bowling review group assembled by the English Cricket Board has approved an interim report on the allegedly suspect bowling action of the Sussex paceman James Kirtley for submission to the ICC. Kirtley will now work on his action with the assistance of Bob Cottam, the ECB's bowling advisor, and other Sussex and ECB support staff with a reassessment before the 2002 season.