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'Azza, our pride!'

Mohammed Azharuddin holds a special place in legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev’s heart. The former India all-rounder was coach when Azharuddin played his last Test — which was his 99th - against South Africa at Bangalore in 2000. Incidentally, Kapil played his last match for India under Azharuddin’s captaincy in 1994. 

India’s 1983 World Cup-winning captain was one of the three people Azharuddin thanked immediately after the Andhra Pradesh High Court lifted the life ban imposed on him by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in December 2000 in the wake of widespread match-fixing allegations that rocked world cricket. Azharuddin also thanked former BCCI president, the late Raj Singh Dungarpur and former Board vice-president Kamal Morarka. “I thank Raj Singh Dungarpur for his constant support when he was alive. Also Kapil paaji has been very vocal in my support in all forums. So was former BCCI vice-president Kamal Morarka. I also thank all my fans who had stood by me in all these 12 years,” Member of Parliament Azharuddin told reporters in New Delhi yesterday.

“Only he (Azhar) can tell you what this day means to him,” Kapil told MiD DAY yesterday.

When asked what made him back Azharuddin to the hilt in the midst of match-fixing claims, Kapil said: “I have always admired him for all the good things he has done for Indian cricket. He has been a tremendous achiever both as player and captain of the Indian team. He has made the country proud. He has been our pride.”

Kapil ceased to be India coach after a 10-month stint (October 1999 to August 2000).

Meanwhile, Azharuddin refused to indulge in blame game for the 12-year ordeal in clearing his name from the match-fixing scandal. “I am not going to take legal action against any authority and I don’t want to blame anybody. It is about destiny and whatever had to happen has happened. I don’t have any complaints,” said Azharuddin, who turns 50 in February. “My conscience was always clear as I haven’t done anything wrong. I have represented my country and had played the game with utmost honesty. I never lost faith and was never a broken man. I didn’t blame anybody and was ready to fight it out in the court of law,” added the Hyderabadi. 

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