Cronje confesses, cricket cries
Police warm up for 2nd innings
Clean-up time across continents
India notches up Pulitzer first
Calcutta weather

 
 
CRONJE CONFESSES, CRICKET CRIES 
 
 
FROM TREVOR CHESTERFIELD
 
Durban, April 11 
Hansie Cronje is a captain without a country. The South African skipper and one of its most revered sporting icons was suspended today after he woke up cricket boss Ali Bacher to say he had not been “entirely honest” in denying the match-fixing allegations.

The 30-year-old, who may have played his last game in a practice match at Kingsmead on Sunday, has admitted he was handed between $ 10,000-15,000 during a triangular series in South Africa earlier this year, rocking the game with the biggest controversy since the Kerry Packer rebel circus saga of 1976.

Cronje apologised for taking money from a bookmaker, but denied he fixed matches in India for financial rewards. Cronje and four teammates have been accused by Delhi police of accepting bribes to fix the one-day series in India last month.

“I mentioned names of players, but in fact I never spoke to a single player about throwing a match. I never received any financial rewards. The allegations of match-fixing by myself are devoid of all truth. For the sake of my Christian conviction, I have decided to reveal my involvement in the matter,” Cronje said in a statement read by sports minister Ngconde Balfour at a news conference in Cape Town, where the cricketer is staying with his brother Frans. Cronje was present at the gathering, but did not utter a word.

The cricketer vehemently denied accepting any money in India to fix matches, as alleged by Delhi police even as the investigators said they had fresh evidence implicating Cronje and his colleagues — Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje, Pieter Strydom and Henry Williams. However, Boje, Strydom and Gibbs denied at a players’ meeting earlier in the day they had been involved at any stage with the charges.

A commission of inquiry, likely to be appointed by the South African government, is to be launched as soon as possible, although no date has been given. It depends on whether the United Cricket Board of South Africa’s International Cricket Council member, Albie Sachs, is available to lead the inquiry. Sachs is at present in the US.

Cronje’s assertion follows his suspension as captain after he admitted taking money to provide tips to bookies. Shaun Pollock has been named captain for Wednesday’s one-day match against Australia in Durban.

Bacher, managing director of the cricket board, told a packed media conference at a beachfront hotel this afternoon that Cronje had called him at 3 am to confess he had accepted money for “providing information and forecasting” during the triangular series with England and Zimbabwe.

According to Bacher, Cronje confessed that he was approached by a South African businessman who had links with a London-based Indian bookie. “Discussions took place and the end result of this...is that Cronje was given between $10,000-15,000...We in cricket are shattered unequivocally,” Bacher said.

Sanjeev Chawla, the London-based bookie whose cellphone chat with the skipper was intercepted by Delhi police, made a statement through his lawyers saying he had never met or spoken to Cronje. “Mr Chawla vehemently and categorically denies any involvement in allegations of match rigging,” the statement said. “He denies that he has met Cronje and denies speaking to him at any time on the telephone as has been reported. He is not ‘in hiding’ as suggested.”

Cronje, whose Rand 25,000 a month contract with the board has been suspended — which means his April salary will also not be paid — says he did not pay the money received from the bookie into his bank account.

However, Cronje did acknowledge that he was in telephonic contact with bookmakers during the India tour and admitted as much to Bacher.

“I admit that I made an error of judgment and I never thought it would lead to such serious implications. I wish to apologise to all South Africans, the team, especially the particular players singled out, the board, the government as well as my wife and family for my involvement in the matter as spelt out,” Cronje said in the statement.

Bacher said he and Percy Sonn, acting president of the cricket board, had not asked Cronje for more details about his dealing with third parties in India because they felt he should consult a lawyer first.

The writer is international cricket correspondent with CricInfo    


 
 
POLICE WARM UP FOR 2ND INNINGS 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, April 11 
As Hansie Cronje added confusion to his qualified confession, jubilant Delhi police insisted that they would “prove in a court” that he had taken money.

The police have pieced together the case and will soon have an Afrikaan expert translate what Hansie purportedly told his South African contact over phone from Kochi.

The police are not relying on the tapes alone. They are on the verge of tracing the route the money had taken on way to London.

The upbeat police team is now hoping that by the time the investigation draws to a close, it would have an index of all cricket bookies not only in India but also in most other parts of the world. This will help others, including Pakistan and Dubai, expose the vast betting network.

After Mumbai, Bangalore, Kochi and Faridabad, Delhi police are now sending three more teams to Nagpur, Baroda and Jamshedpur where one-dayers were played between India and South Africa. The teams left this evening, according to the joint commissioner of police, K.K. Paul.

Names of 20 more bookies in different parts of the country who may be involved in this case have come up. The police are already in touch with Mumbai to verify these names.

They have also raided the homes of a few bookies in Delhi this morning but the names or the results of these raids were not disclosed.

Kishen Kumar, admitted in a hospital ever since the police wanted to question him, remained out of the reach of interrogators today, but the Enforcement Directorate issued a notice to him to cooperate with its officials.

Delhi police are also seeking legal help to find out if they can take government doctors to the private hospital in Noida where Kumar is undergoing treatment and have his health status verified.

Such alternatives are being considered against the backdrop of fears that Kumar might be using the time gained to erase evidence.

The police have already made at least eight trips to the hospital and is waiting for the first chance to question Kumar. Tomorrow morning, they would try their luck again.

The voice-match test of the tapes, which carry purported conversation between Cronje and businessman Sanjeev Chawla, will be done once the case is taken up in court.

The police have sealed the tapes and handed them over to the metropolitan magistrate’s court where they first produced the arrested bookie, Rajesh Kalra. But the police have copies, which are sufficient for primary tests.

The Delhi police chief said he had heard Cronje speak at different post-match interviews, and the voice matched with that on the tape.    


 
 
CLEAN-UP TIME ACROSS CONTINENTS 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, April 11 
It’s ironical that South Africa, which took the lead in specifically prohibiting unethical financial dealings by cricketers/officials, in 1995, has had to sack its captain for not being above board.

South Africa’s initiative, it may be recalled, led to the International Cricket Council (ICC) Code of Conduct being amended.

Though unethical dealings were covered by the “nothing should be done against the spirit of the game” bit, the Salim Malik tamasha encouraged South Africa to spell things out in black-and-white.

Today, the egg is all over the crusader’s face.

While Hansie Cronje’s admission, even more startling than the allegation which surfaced Friday, has answered some questions, dozens more have surfaced.

Should the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) launch a fresh investigation into Shane Warne and Mark Waugh’s admission that they acted as weathermen for an Indian bookie (Singer Cup in Sri Lanka, 1994)?

Should the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) refer the Justice (retd) Y.V. Chandrachud report, which gave Indian cricket a clean chit, to the CBI?

Should the ICC, which accepted the ACB and BCCI “probe” reports, disband its own rather ornamental Code of Conduct Commission?

Should the (suspended) judicial inquiry in Pakistan be quickly revived?

Should Delhi police also begin probing bookies’ links with three current Indian players, “named in passing” by arrested bookie Rajesh Kalra?

The answers to all queries is simple: Yes.

Most still can’t believe the ACB took the Warne-Waugh explanation at face value. What, after all, is the guarantee they only “spoke” about the weather and how the pitch could behave?

But for David Hookes’ revelation on his radio chat-show, it would have remained under the carpet.

Now, it’s time for a fresh look.

Even the ICC’s chief executive, David Richards, who was party to the initial cover-up, needs to be asked a few questions.

In any case, nobody is convinced the Warnes and Cronjes will put their reputation on the line for sums as meagre as $5,000 and $10,000-15,000.

It’s laughable. Slapping a monetary fine is just as amusing.

The Chandrachud report, significantly, continues to be looked upon with scepticism.

It’s another matter that Manoj Prabhakar, whose allegations brought Justice Chandrachud into the picture, has limited credibility. Still, few believe Indian cricket deserves the clean chit it got.

The former Supreme Court chief justice will argue he went strictly by the evidence presented — it amounted to nothing with even Prabhakar pleading “Jaan pyari hai... I can’t take names” — but that only underlines the need for an investigative agency to step in.

“I don’t think the ICC even has the money to enlist a decent lawyer, so, forget the ICC doing anything... Rather, the respective Boards should seek the help of professional agencies and, for a change, not brush things under the carpet,” opined former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

Speaking to The Telegraph from his Delhi residence, Pataudi added: “Of course, this is a time of crisis for cricket, but one shouldn’t say it won’t any longer be a gentleman’s game. In my book, cricket has never been that... How can people forget Bodyline back in the early 1930s?”

But was he despondent?

“Disappointed, more than anything else. If soccer, boxing and athletics can overcome scandals, cricket, too, can handle this crisis,” Pataudi replied.

Yes, provided those in authority complement the clean-up efforts of agencies like Delhi Police. It’s time to be bold, not to duck.    


 
 
INDIA NOTCHES UP PULITZER FIRST 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR IN WASHINGTON AND CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
April 11 
There were three reasons why Jhumpa Lahiri shouldn’t have got the Pulitzer prize for fiction: She is only 32, a debutante writer and worse, a writer of short stories. But she got it anyway.

Lahiri bagged the prize for her Interpreter of Maladies. A New Yorker born of Bengali parents, she is the first writer of Indian origin to notch a Pulitzer. The collection of stories, like the writer, straddles “Bengal, Boston and beyond”.

Beyond Arundhati Roy, among other things. In Lahiri, the Indian media can at last find a replacement for Roy on two counts: as a writer who wins a big prize abroad — the Booker in Roy’s case — with her first novel. And as a writer who looks as good as she writes.

The five other winners in the Pulitzer arts category announced yesterday include composer Lewis Spratlan and playwright Donald Marguiles.

Few expected Lahiri to win —including Lahiri herself. The Pulitzer website, normally prolific about their winners, had just one word about her in the column about her work: fiction.

Though away from the glare, Lahiri had quietly made a habit of winning prizes. She had just returned to Boston yesterday after receiving the Pen/Hemingway prize for best first fiction. Three of the stories in Interpreter were published in The New Yorker magazine which recently named her as “one of the 20 best writers under the age of 40”. The title story has been selected for both the O’Henry Award and The Best American Short Stories. She had been interviewed by Newsweek too.

Lahiri was brought to the attention of the Pulitzer jury by one of its members, Wendy Lesser, editor of The Three Penny Review, a literary magazine published from Berkeley, California.

“We were actually joking about the Pulitzer Prize yesterday,” she said. “A friend said: ‘The Nobel is next. Ha, ha.’ And somebody else said: ‘No, no, the Pulitzers come before that.’ We were just laughing about it.”

But critics had been serious, exhausting superlatives. “You will not be able to put the book down,” Amy Tan had said. In her review in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani wrote: “She is a writer of uncommon elegance and poise, and with Interpreter of Maladies, she has made a precocious debut.”

Lahiri has also been compared with formidable names: that of Hemingway and Isherwood.

Published by Houghton Mifflin this month, Lahiri’s book has been sold in Germany, the UK and several other countries. Lahiri is now working on her first novel — yet another probe into immigrant lives.

Many of Lahiri’s “maladies” come from Calcutta, a place she has visited often. Born in London and brought up in Rhode Island, Lahiri chooses Calcutta, her parents’ city, often as a setting because of “a necessary combination of distance and intimacy”.

The poignant story about Boori-Ma, a destitute and “The Treatment of Bibi Haldar” about a mysterious disease besetting the woman in the winning collection are set in the city.

“I went to Calcutta neither as a tourist nor was former resident — a valuable position, I think,” says Lahiri. “I learnt to observe things as an outsider and yet I also knew that, as different as Calcutta is from Rhode Island, I belonged there in some fundamental way. In the ways I didn’t seem to belong in the US.”

Lahiri’s initial attempts to be a fiction writer were rebuffed as several schools rejected her graduate school application. “Now I know that was a blessing in disguise,” she says. Lahiri took up a job as a research assistant at a non-profit institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she had a computer of her own.

There she stayed late and came in early — to work on her stories. Eventually she had enough material to apply to the creative writing programme at Boston University. But once it ended, she did not know how and where to sell her stories or book projects. So she went into a PhD programme. “But it was never something I loved,” she says candidly. So she continued writing stories for literary magazines.

But things took a dramatic turn when she was accepted to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, two years ago. “It was something like a miracle,” she says. “In seven months I got an agent, sold a book and had a story published in The New Yorker. It has been the happiest possible ending.”

That was only the beginning.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 35.7°C (normal) Minimum: 26.7°C (+2) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 92%, Minimum: 43% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of thundercloud development towards afternoon. Not much change in maximum temperature, which is likely to be around 36°C. Sunset: 5.52 pm Sunrise: 5.22 am    
 

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