Twelve years after the Board of
Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) imposed a ban for life-time on
former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin, the Andhra Pradesh High Court
Thursday struck it down as "illegal".
In a major relief to the cricketer-turned-politician, a division bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court set aside the order of a lower court which had upheld the ban.
It was on Dec 5, 2000, that the BCCI banned Azhar from playing professional cricket for the rest of his life after he was found guilty of match-fixing charges.
The Hyderabadi had challenged the Indian cricket board's decision in the city civil court, which upheld the ban. He then moved to high court against the lower court's order, his lawyers arguing that BCCI imposed the ban without any evidence.
The 49-year-old is currently a member of the Lok Sabha from the Moradabad constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
The court verdict has come as a major relief to Azhar, who had always maintained that the ban on him was unfair and the BCCI's decision was unilateral. The BCCI then had banned Azhar and Ajay Sharma for life and imposed a five-year ban on Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar.
The BCCI move came after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which probed the match-fixing scandal, accused these players of having links with bookies and of under-performing in return for huge sums of money.
The match-fixing scandal came to light after then South Africa captain Hansie Cronje, in his confession, claimed that Azhar had introduced him to the bookies.
Azhar, one of India's most successful captains nd prolific batsmen, played 99 Tests and scored 6,215 runs during his career. He also played 334 One-Day Internationals scoring 9,378 runs in his 15-year international career.
The wristy batsman had taken the world of cricket by storm in 1984-85 with a world record of three consecutive centuries in three Tests on his debut against England. He entered politics a few months before 2009 elections by joining the Congress party and was elected to the Lok Sabha.