Why this campaign?

Everyone has the right to seek legitimate employment. Honouring Azhar is another matter. He surrendered that right long ago.-SHAJU JOHN

The call to rehabilitate Mohammed Azharuddin is not right. You cannot restore a man who badly damaged a game he was supposed to love, a game that nurtured him, argues PETER ROEBUCK.

Nothing has been more upsetting during the course of the Champions Trophy than the campaign to bring to an end the ban imposed on Mohammed Azharuddin for his involvement in the game's most deplorable episode. To find BCCI leaders leading the protesters has been to despair of dignity in high places and to find instead the sort of populism that inevitably leads to ruin. Ordinarily the most civilised of men, Mr. Bindra has lowered himself to supporting the attempt to restore a fallen man. Abandoning objective analysis in favour of emotional appeal, Bindra has accused the game of double standards in the more lenient treatment of others involved in match-fixing.

Doubtless, he is thinking about Shane Warne and Herschelle Gibbs.

Bindra's argument is invalid. To compare Warne with Azhar is illogical. Not even the Australian's harshest critics have suggested that the leg-spinner betrayed his country by throwing away his wicket let alone a match for money. Nor has anyone suggested that he invited others to join these nefarious activities, or that his relationship with the bookie lasted for years and proved lucrative. His country did not suffer from his brief flirtation with easy money.

Azhar is another case. For a start he was captain of his country and responsible for the welfare of the game and the progress of the youngsters under his command. Moreover, he was not an innocent trapped in a web. To a large extent he was the spider weaving that web. Many players have revealed that it was the Hyderabadi who introduced them to the bookies. Often the meeting took place in Sharjah, and as a rule he left the room once hands had been shaken. Not that Azhar was the only culprit. The senior detective appointed to lead the investigation was taken aback by the extent of the corruption, and the number of famous players prepared to sell their souls. Numerous captains were involved in the scam, and not all received their just desserts. It went back a long way. Listen to the Tehelka tapes. The whole story will never be told. Money trails are hard to follow. And too many people had too much to lose.

However, Azhar cannot complain that others escaped. An office holder, an inspiration to youth, a highly paid professional sportsman was caught with his hands deep in the pie and the inevitable penalty was imposed. Nor has his subsequent conduct been redemptive. Has he told the police everything? Azhar betrayed the promise of a brilliant youth and the trust that was put in his hands. He badly damaged a game he was supposed to love, a game that nurtured him. His calumny justified his sentence. And it might have been worse. Luckily the team also contained men of high standards and India was able to rebuild around respected senior players, an untarnished hero and a proud young captain.

Mr. Bindra and company must think again. What are former colleagues supposed to feel about Azhar's rehabilitation? What about spectators who find themselves questioning every unexpected turn in a notoriously fickle game. What did it mean? Was the fix in? Cricket may have been cleaned up but it'll take decades to restore public confidence.

Readers may recall my support for Azhar's application to work as a commentator. Everyone has the right to seek legitimate employment. Honouring him is another matter. He surrendered that right long ago, on the day he first thought more about crores than cricket.