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The Stand-In Batsmen
Ajay Jadeja has pulled out all stops to get off with a rap on the knuckles from the bcci's disciplinary committee when it pronounces its judgement early next week on the five tainted cricketers. A three-year or even a year's ban, he knows, will effectively bring his cricketing career to an abrupt end.
There are many batting for him in his moment of reckoning. Defence minister George Fernandes' one-on-one meeting with sports minister Uma Bharati at South Block on November 30 was essentially called to convey to her that Jadeja was being "victimised" unnecessarily. Samata party chief Jaya Jetley's single-minded crusade—beseeching all those who matter to let off a person some see is her prospective son-in-law lightly—too has had its reverberations in the cricketing establishment. Sports officials also mention how former sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa was talked to before he bowed out.
"Nobody has been spared. The Save Jadeja Campaign is at a feverish pitch," says a cbi official. In fact, moves were made almost three months back when the cbi was winding up its investigations into the match-fixing probe. Highly-placed sources in the government said "feelers" were sent to cbi director R.K. Raghavan to "go easy" on the all-rounder but that did not happen. When Jadeja's hastily-called press conference to debunk the cbi's findings found no takers, renewed pressure was mounted.
K. Madhavan, vigilance commissioner for the bcci, was also reportedly "approached" when he was examining the cbi report and subsequently calling the players individually. When Madhavan went along with the agency's findings in his lengthy report to the bcci, one imagined that the end was nigh with the special general body meeting on November 29.
Not so. Instructions were passed on to some board members to go soft on Jadeja. A board affiliate from the railway ministry (which has a Ranji team) was reportedly talked to by minister of state Digvijay Singh of the Samata Party, to do his bit if the matter came up for voting. But no show of hands was actually recorded at the meeting in Calcutta. In fact, an overwhelming 28 of the 30 affiliates favoured imposing the maximum penalty (life ban) on players blacklisted by the cbi and Madhavan.
That it's all out in the open is there for everyone to see. If Jadeja does get off lightly, the influence peddlers would have succeeded. But even if Jadeja does, would he be acceptable in the team? Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly is already on record saying that he has the challenging task of grooming a "young and clean team". That matters.