The high court decision could pave the way for Azhar’s return to the world he inhabited with great distinction for over a decade and a half, during which he played 99 Tests for India, demonstrating an unmatched wristy artistry in scoring 22 hundreds.
The board had given an indication of softening its stance in 2006, when it invited the former batsman — now the Congress MP from Moradabad — to a felicitation function it organised in Mumbai. However, despite a view in the BCCI that he had been punished enough — more so since a court in Pakistan had lifted the ban on Salim Malik in 2008 — no concrete steps were taken to reverse the 2000 decision.
“I am a happy man today and I have no regrets that I was not allowed to play longer. I am not going to take any legal action against any authority and I don’t want to blame anybody for this also. It is about destiny and whatever had to happen has happended. I don’t have any complaints,” Azhar said on Thursday.
Senior BCCI official and union minister Rajeev Shukla said: “I can only say that our legal team will analyse the judgment, only then will we take a decision.”
Azhar received support from former BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele, who questioned the evidence that led to the ban. “In my opinion Azharuddin shouldn’t have been banned for life in the first place. I am happy for him now,” he said.
The high court agreed with Azharuddin’s counsel K Ramakant Reddy that there was no evidence that the former batsman succumbed to any pressure during his playing days.
Asked if the ban was illegal, Azhar said, “That is why it was lifted. But I don’t want to say much about this. I have said whatever I wanted to say in the court through my counsel. My conscience was clear and I was not happy with the ban. But I am the person to take things positively. I am happy now and want to move on.”