Ranji players reprimanded for speaking to Azharuddin at Kotla ground


Qaiser Mohammad Ali


The BCCI has made its anti-corruption rules so stringent for domestic tournaments this season that even if players or a member of team support staff is found simply talking to someone, even if he happens to be a former India captain, they would be taken to task.

Exactly this happened when some Vidarbha and Delhi players/support staff spoke to former captain Mohammed Azharuddin for a few minutes during play in a Ranji Trophy match at Ferozeshah Kotla on Sunday. The match referee took exception to it, reprimanded them, and could even write this innocuous incident in his report to the BCCI.

Mohammed Azharuddin (second from right) watches the Delhi-Vidarbha Ranji Trophy game at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Sunday. Others in photo are (from left) DDCA executive committee member Siddharth Singh, DDCA vice-president Chetan Chauhan, and senior Delhi selector Hari Gidwani.

Jantakareporter.com sources confirmed that match referee Rajendra Raisinh Jadeja summoned the concerned players, team officials, and managers of the two teams and reminded them that they were not supposed to talk to anyone during playing hours.

While acknowledging that he was aware that Azharuddin visited the Kotla on Sunday, the fourth and final day of the match, Jadeja said he had “no idea” if some players and members of the teams’ support staff met the former member of Parliament.

“I believe he had come to the ground, but I don’t know anything else. I was in the referee’s room; we people are very busy [during play],” Jadeja told www.jantakareporter.com. “He (Azhar) can come and watch the game; no issues on that count.”

However, Jadeja was quick to emphasise that meeting Azharuddin was no crime at all, and that he had no “issues” with him watching matches from ringside.

Jadeja said implementing rules was part of his brief. “It’s my job as a BCCI referee,” said the former Saurashtra player.

When pointed out that some players reportedly breached the rules on Sunday, Jadeja feigned ignorance. “I have no idea because these things are in the hands of the BCCI’s Anti Corruption Unit officials and they look at these things,” he said.

Sources, however, said that after the players and members of the support staff met Azharuddin, Jadeja told them that they had breached the stringent ACU rules, according to which they cannot interact with anyone during playing hours. They said that Jadeja also summoned managers of the two teams and local ACU officer nominated by the DDCA and told them in no uncertain terms that the incident was a breach of protocol.

“S. Badrinath, Wasim Jaffer, coach Paras Mhambrey, and Shalabh Shrivastava of Vidarbha and Delhi team’s assistant coach Amit Bhandari and trainer Nishant had met Azharuddin on Sunday morning,” said a source who was an eyewitness to the incident.

“Azharuddin had come to the Kotla in the morning and watched the action along with DDCA vice-president Chetan Chauhan, Delhi’s senior selector Hari Gidwani and DDCA director Siddharth Verma, sitting in front of the Old Club House building,” he said.

“Later, Jadeja also summoned the team managers and local ACU officer and asked how they were able to meet anyone outside the PMOA (Players and Match Officials Area), a designated stretch that is strictly reserved for players and match-related officials.”

On the other hand, no unauthorised person can enter PMOA.

However, according to the ACU rules, players or members of support staff of teams can walk around the boundary rope, but without talking to talking to anyone – a stipulation that a cricket fan described as “draconian”.

On the protocol in place during play, Jadeja said, “Only authorised people can come inside the PMOA area, not others.”

Last year, another match referee during a Delhi-Orissa Ranji match at the Ferozeshah Kotla had stopped Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya and a player for talking to a journalist with whom they were walking along the boundary rope.

Referee Daniel Manohar, a former Hyderabad batsman of repute, had reprimanded Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya and a Delhi player for walking and talking to a local reporter while walking along the boundary rope.

This reporter saw Manohar getting from his match referee’s chair from the second floor of the New Club House and waved to the three persons as they reached the place where players’ chairs were laid out at the ground. He told Dahiya and the Delhi player to not to speak to the journalist as play was on.

The BCCI’s anti-corruption rules stipulate, “From the time of arrival until the end of the match, players and officials are not allowed to leave the PMOA without the prior permission of the ACU official in charge”.