A court in India on Thursday overruled the life ban imposed on former national cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin in 2000 for match-fixing, posing a major challenge to the sport's ruling body.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court in Azharuddin's home city of Hyderabad upheld his petition against the ban, which followed a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report in 2000 that found the cricketer guilty of corruption.
The court said the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had acted "unilaterally" in imposing the ban and threw out a lower court's order that ruled in favour of the ban, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
The court lifted the ban after agreeing with Azharuddin's lawyers that there was "no evidence against the former cricketer that he succumbed to any pressure while playing cricket", the news agency added.
The BCCI was undecided whether to appeal the court's ruling, spokesman Rajiv Shukla told reporters in New Delhi.
"The legal team of the BCCI needs to analyse the judgement first, we can only comment on it after that," Shukla said.
Azharuddin, now 49 and an elected lawmaker, said he was delighted with the ruling.
"It was a long drawn-out legal case and it was painful," he told reporters in New Delhi. "But finally the verdict has come and I am happy that the ban has been lifted by the court.
"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 happened.
"My conscience was clear and I was not happy by the ban. But I take things positively. I am happy now and want to move on."
The CBI inquiry was conducted after a match-fixing scandal in 2000 that led to life bans also being imposed on two other Test captains, Hansie Cronje of South Africa and Salim Malik of Pakistan.
Cronje, who was accused by New Delhi police of taking money from bookie Sanjeev Chawla during South Africa's tour of India in 2000, died in a plane crash two years later.
Azharuddin was stranded on 99 Test appearances due to the ban, having made 6,215 runs at an average of 45.03 after bursting on the scene in 1984-85 with centuries in each of his first three Tests.
The wristy right-hand batsman finished with 22 Test centuries. He also scored 9,378 runs in 334 one-day internationals with seven hundreds.
Azharuddin joined politics in 2009 and was elected to the lower house of parliament the same year on a Congress ticket from Moradabad.