Cronje faces bribe bouncer
Delhi police on a sticky wicket
Oh no! Not Captain Clean
Calcutta weather

 
 
CRONJE FACES BRIBE BOUNCER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 7 
Delhi police today rocked the cricket world back on its heels by accusing the thus-far squeaky clean South Africans of match-fixing in the recent one-day series in India.

Captain Hansie Cronje and four of his teammates were charged with accepting huge amounts of money in the series that the South Africans unexpectedly lost 3-2, the credit for the Indian turnaround — after a 2-0 whitewash in Tests — going to new captain Sourav Ganguly.

The money paid into foreign banks could be a minimum of $200,000 (nearly Rs 8.5 crore), the police said. Apart from Cronje, the four others accused of accepting bribes are Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje, Pietr Strydom and Henry Williams.

In Johannesburg, South Africa cricket boss Ali Bacher emphatically denied the involvement of any cricketer in match-fixing. “I have spoken to Hansie Cronje and he says it is absolute rubbish. There is nothing at all in it,” said Bacher.

“We (the cricket board) are absolutely certain that none of our players has ever been party to that practice (match-fixing),” Bacher added.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, who heads the International Cricket Council, said he had no knowledge of the charges, but promised to look into them. “I cannot say anything on hearsay. I cannot announce on hypothetical basis,” Dalmiya said in Dhaka on the eve of the one-dayer between World XI and Asia XI.

Speaking to Associated Press, Gibbs said of the allegation: “That’s nonsense, completely ludicrous.” He was not sure of how to deal with it. “What does a person do when something like this happens?”

Delhi police sources said four Indian players were not above suspicion, either. But there was no proof of their participation in the match-fixing manouevres. The movements of these Indian players will be closely monitored over the next few months.

An Indian bookie, Rajesh Kalra, has been arrested and produced in a Delhi court. Kalra was picked up from his Greater Kailash-II residence. He has been remanded in police custody for 48 hours. Sanjeev (alias Sanjay) Chawla, a resident of Jangpura in Delhi, is said to be the mastermind behind these deals. He has escaped to London and an Interpol look-out has been issued in his name. Delhi police propose to take the help of the Interpol to book the South African players once the case is ready.

This is the most direct accusation of match-fixing ever made in the history of cricket and, for the first time, against South Africans. Indian, Pakistani and Australian players have so far been in the thick of match-fixing controversies.

The so-called breakthrough has been made by the crime branch of Delhi police. They claimed they have been able to “unearth an international racket in cricket match-fixing and betting.”

Based on available information, a case (FIR NO: 111) of cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy was registered at the Chanakyapuri police station in New Delhi yesterday.

The tip-off that match-fixing deals were being struck came soon after the series between India and South Africa began. Inspector Ishwar Singh and assistant commissioner of police Rishi Pal informed their superiors that some Indian businessmen were in touch with South African cricketers.

The police obtained permission from a court of law (a procedure officials refuse to elaborate on) to monitor the cellular phone and telephone being used by Cronje. A cellphone loaned to Hansie by Kalra, which the South African captain appeared to have used throughout the series, was tapped.

The recording of the conversation between Hansie and Sanjeev Chawla began on the eve of the third match at Faridabad. The police have provided only snatches of the conversation and not mentioned the dates on which the South African captain was contacted by the businessmen. According to the police version, not all the demands made by the bookies before the Faridabad match were met by Cronje as it appears from the final scorecard. Far from throwing the match away, South Africa won it. On top of that, the central character in the drama, Cronje, was named man of the match.

The police are also involving the enforcement directorate to probe the foreign exchange transactions.    


 
 
DELHI POLICE ON A STICKY WICKET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 7 
The bombshell dropped by the Delhi police can backfire if they fail to build a foolproof case.

The police will make themselves an object of ridicule and invite an expensive libel suit if they are unable to substantiate the charges they have made against a respected cricketer like Hansie Cronje and several of his team-mates.

Already, it appears, they are not in a position to explain or elaborate on a number of grey areas:

The Delhi police have only revealed snatches of the conversation without mentioning precise dates or locations where Cronje’s mobile phone was tapped. The police establishment insists that for the sake of the case, the loose ends of which need to be tied up, they would not prefer to reveal the entire transcript of the conversations now.

The police say that since the mobile number was that of a Delhi-based cellular operator, it was easy to follow the conversations throughout the country. The police did not have to move from one venue to another.

The police should have at least found out the actual money involved in the deals between the bookies and the cricketers. They only have figures like 140 and 60, which they have learnt from the conversation and have easily concluded that these figures are in thousands. They are not even aware of the currency in which the transactions were made.

To justify the charges, the Delhi police could have waited to trace the hawala route. It vaguely asserts that the money went to foreign banks through “clandestine hawala channels” but is not in a position to track down the exact bank, the dates when the money was deposited or even the country where the bank is located.

The police have not yet made it clear how they are so certain that the voice is that of Hansie Cronje. They have not said whether they carried out a voice-matching test.

The police are tightlipped on the possibility of the involvement of Indian cricketers. But there are parts of the conversation which hint at a similar buy-off of Indian players.

For example, Sanjeev asks Cronje: “So everything is according to plan. They (the Indians) have to score at least 250.” The indication is that the Indian part of the deal was to score a minimum of 250 to ensure a South African defeat.

If the police are so certain that the matches were fixed, they ought to have shown how the results tallied with the conversation recorded the previous day. In the Faridabad game, for example, apart from Gibbs not scoring more than 20, the South Africans appeared to have upset the calculation of the bookies, assuming the deal was for tanking the match. They won and kept alive their chances in the series.    


 
 
OH NO! NOT CAPTAIN CLEAN 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Dhaka, April 7 
It remains to be seen just what is proved, but it’s a measure of Hansie Cronje’s stature that the first reaction from just about everybody has been one of disbelief.

“I’m dazed... Don’t know how long it will take to sink in... While I shouldn’t say anything rash, I would like to place on record that Hansie has always been a straight- forward guy,” remarked Wasim Akram, himself a victim of multiple match-fixing allegations, while speaking to The Telegraph.

Just as stunned — if not more — was Mike Procter, a legendary allrounder in his time and currently a South African selector. “God, this is some wake-up call,” was Procter’s reaction, when reached for a comment.

Having arrived from Bangkok late in the afternoon, Procter was catching up on sleep when approached for a response.

“Let me switch on the TV,” Procter added and, after a few minutes, insisted he was “too shocked” to say anything. “What can I say?” Procter counter-questioned, alarmed that a criminal investigation was underway and Interpol’s help had been sought.

In keeping with its policy, the United Cricket Board of South Africa is backing Cronje and the others under a cloud.

Ali Bacher, managing director of the board, told Associated Press: “He (Cronje) is a man of unimpeachable integrity and honesty, and the board is standing four-square behind him. I have spoken to all the players involved, and they all deny emphatically any knowledge whatsoever of the allegations which have been made.”

Though more than just surprised, Indian captain Sourav Ganguly felt “it wouldn’t be proper to say anything”. At least, not now. But, yes, his body-language suggested he was very hurt by the insinuation that his first series win as full-fledged captain had been “fixed”.

Asif Iqbal, Event Manager of tomorrow’s Asia XI versus Rest of World match for the CricketNext.Com Cup, reacted much like the rest. “Frankly, I need time to think about what I should be saying... In any case, at the moment, we are only dealing with allegations”.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature Maximum: 33°C (3°C below normal) Minimum: 26°C (2°C above normal) Humidity, Maximum: 92% Minimum: 65% Sunset: 5.30 pm, Sunrise: 5.26 am Today: Partly cloudy sky. Slight rise in maximum temperature. Maximum temperature likely to be around 35°C    
 

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