Azharuddin, who was stranded on 99 Test appearances, has not been considered for selection since the South African series in February-March.Prabhakar retired from the game in 1996, while Sharma last played for India in 1993. "The ban has hit me the most," said Jadeja, who was four matches away from completing 200 One-day appearances although his Test career lasted only 15 matches."Azharuddin was 38 and I don't know how many years more he would have carried on. Prabhakar and Ajay Sharma were also not in consideration for international duty. "But I have been prevented from doing what I loved most - playing for India," Jadeja said, hinting he may take recourse to legal action to clear his name. "I will explore all avenues to restore my credibility. I will knock at the doors of the BCCI and, if need be, go further."Jadeja denied high-level political pressure had been applied on his behalf to soften the BCCI verdict against him. "There was no need for me to approach anyone because I have maintained all along that I did not indulge in betting or match-fixing," he said. "I told the CBI and the BCCI inquiry that my contact with alleged bookmakers was because they visited the same health club.
"There was nothing more to it, but no one believed me. I cannot stop anyone from saying anything. Even the media did not believe my innocence." Azharuddin refused to comment on the life ban, continuing his silence since the CBI accused him of match-fixing in its report made public last month.But Prabhakar, who blew the lid on the scandal three years ago only to find himself accused of having close contacts with bookmakers, was more forthcoming."I launched the crusade to cleanse the game and I have succeeded in doing it," the former all-rounder said. "But I feel sad that the BCCI did not even have the courtesy to note the contribution I made to clear the dirt. It instead equated me with other players."There is a lot of difference between me and them. I was fighting against the system of which they (cricketers) were a part."In the first indication that the punished players will not remain silent, Prabhakar said it was an unnamed BCCI official who had introduced him to betting.
"I won't name the official, but the BCCI knows who the person is," Prabhakar said.BCCI president A C Muthiah immediately denied the charge, saying he expected a backlash from the players. "I did not expect them to confess to their guilt, but the inquiries have shown these players were involved in wrongdoing," Muthiah said."The punishment is a lesson for all. I hope it will serve as a deterrent in future." The BCCI's action is the most severe by any country since the scandal broke in April when Delhi police accused former South African captain Hansie Cronje of indulging in match-fixing. Cronje, who admitted to the charge, was thrown out of the game for life, but his co-accused Herschelle Gibbs was let off with a temporary suspension. Those within the BCCI who favoured a soft approach on the players cited the example of Australian stars Shane Warne and Mark Waugh, who were let off with a fine after admitting to taking money from an Indian bookmaker called "John" for providing team information. Pakistani cricketers like Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed were still playing for their country despite being named for similar offences in a judicial report earlier this year.Copyright AFP 2000