Azharuddin 'innocent'

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The Independent Online

Two of India's former Test captains have distanced themselves from the match-fixing scandal sparked by Hansie Cronje's admission that he took money from a bookmaker.

Both Mohammad Azharuddin and Kapil Dev said yesterday that they had never been approached by a bookmaker and firmly denied any connection with illegal betting.

Azharuddin further rebuffed the allegations published in a news weekly, The Outlook, which carried a conversation taped by police allegedly between Azharuddin and a bookmaker in which the former captain had asked his bet to be placed on South Africa during the 1996 one-day series against India. It also named the present coach of the Indian team, Kapil Dev, and two other players, Ajay Jadeja and Nayan Mongia, as allegedly involved in betting.

"I deny all the allegations as false, untrue, baseless and with no substance whatsoever," Azharuddin said in a statement. "I say that no bookie has ever approached me or any other player to the best of my knowledge. I am a dedicated player and the game of cricket is my love and passion," he said.

Kapil Dev, meanwhile, said he was "ashamed to be a cricketer" on the day Cronje admitted to taking money from an Indian bookmaker in return for information in the one-day series between India and South Africa.

He also called for a widespread clean-up operation to root out any players involved in the betting scandal. "It has hurt me," he said. "I was ashamed to be a cricketer at that moment. It is terribly sad."

Kapil Dev added: "I can't believe it happened under our noses. I've never been approached by a bookmaker. We heard rumours and stories, but it's difficult to believe what has gone on. Now we have a chance to really clean up the game. The administrators, government and the media will have failed if they don't clean up something that is bad for the sport."

Indian cricketers are to be presented with a strict code of conduct, the nation's governing body for the sport said yesterday. "The Board of Control for Cricket in India has assured it will formulate a code of conduct for its players and implement the same as soon as possible," said a statement from International Cricket Council president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, yesterday.

Dalmiya's missive came after a meeting between the ICC and the BCCI on the match-fixing crisis. It said the BCCI will direct all its present and former office bearers, members, players, officials, coaches and managers to subject themselves to a Delhi police inquiry.

* In Johannesburg yesterday the South Africa Board said it will investigate reports of the 1996 team meeting at which Cronje and his players were allegedly offered £250,000 to lose a game against an Indian XI.