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MANOJ REPLIES WITH VIDEO BOMB 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, May 27 
In the most significant and far-reaching evidence on the match-fix scandal so far, secretly-filmed videotapes by Manoj Prabhakar have revealed that several senior BCCI officials and cricketers knew of the depth, magnitude and extent of match-fixing for years but took no action whatsoever to cleanse Indian cricket of the scourge.

The sensational tapes expose board officials and players who have maintained a public façade of innocence while privately admitting to deep knowledge of betting and senior players’ involvement in it. Among those named as having been involved in various forms of match-fixing are Kapil Dev, Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja.

“Fallen Heroes”, two video tapes played by tehelka.com — which collaborated with Prabhakar for a two-month assignment to secretly film conversations between him, BCCI officials and former and current cricketers — may yet not provide clinching evidence that Kapil offered Prabhakar Rs 25 lakh to under-perform or of any other players’ direct involvement.

But they establish one fact: BCCI officials, including secretary Jaywant Lele, and ICC president Jagmohan Dalmiya were fully aware that Indian players indulged in match-fixing and continue to do so. Yet, they looked the other way when Prabhakar first alleged in an article in 1997 that senior players took money from bookies to tank matches. The tapes, which ran for nearly two-and-a-half hours, were played to a packed audience at a five-star hotel this afternoon.

After publicly naming Kapil a few days ago —- Prabhakar had named the greatest Indian all-rounder to former BCCI president I.S. Bindra, home minister L.K. Advani and the CBI —- the Delhi all-rounder today said the video tapes were not meant to hurt or malign any single individual. They were his contribution to cleanse Indian cricket of the menace that has not only tarnished the game but also damaged the credibility of India’s performances the world over.

The most explosive revelation is the conversation between Lele and Prabhakar. Referring to a New Zealand-India match, Lele says then coach Aunshuman Gaekwad told him how “somebody” had called him up to say India would lose the match and Azhar and Jadeja would be run out.

“You will not believe, whatever was decided everything happened exactly. Azharuddin was run out. Jadeja was run out. But Sachin saw to it that India won the game... All this you are telling openly. I don’t have any proof so what will I say. Each and every person who is at the top end of the board is aware. So there are three persons: Azhar, Jadeja and Kapil... Jadeja and Kapil Dev. What is Jadeja, is all Kapil,” Lele tells Prabhakar.

When Prabhakar asks why Kapil should continue as coach, Lele answers: “That was the biggest mistake. Let me tell you. I can swear by my wife. I told Dalmiya. I said this is the third consecutive mistake you are doing. You will realise you are making a mistake. I said two mistakes I have pointed out to you... If he’s (Kapil) thinking himself guilty... morally he should resign.”

Dalmiya, speaking to a tehelka.com reporter on tape, said: “I am saying 16 players (of the team) are involved. At least the ‘A’ team guys are not involved.”

“This process is not going to end. You and I have just one point of difference. You say if four-five guys get caught, we have done some good to society and this thing will stop. But those people who are getting publicity, their number will jump from four to 40. This has been happening in the country for 53 years and it will continue,” Dalmiya added.

Dubbing Azhar a person “with a criminal bent of mind”, Mumbai police commissioner tells Prabhakar: “It (match-fixing) all started with Gavaskar, developed during Kapil Dev’s time but peaked during Azhar’s time.”

The commissioner also names Prabhakar and Mongia, whose recorded conversations with bookies, he says, is in the possession of Mumbai police as evidence. He indicates that Azhar had links with the underworld and Dawood Ibrahim cronies like Anees Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel and Sharad Shakeel were all into match-fixing and apparently referred to Azhar as “Azharbhai”. Former spinner Bishen Singh Bedi also tells Prabhakar that “Azhar is involved, Jadeja is involved, Kapil is involved.”

Ravi Shastri, the only person to have stood by Prabhakar after he named Kapil, provides a glaring instance where Azhar fished out a bag containing Rs 6 lakh and bought an expensive watch on one Pappu Bhutani’s wrists when a match was going on.

Shastri felt that it was Kapil who made the huge declaration of cash in the voluntary disclosure of income scheme. Shastri says he suspects Ajay Sharma and that even Sachin Tendulkar has mentioned “something something about it... everybody knew.”

Even Sunil Gavaskar implicates Azhar when he tells Prabhakar that he is known to Sanjeev Chawla. Gavaskar could not get the full name right and had initially said it was Sanjeev Kalra. “His (Azhar’s) money was there... he... he also had some problems... In Zimbabwe, he bought a watch or gold or something, Azhar, and he didn’t have the money! Then in Bombay, I believe, his money... Who’s the guy in London? The guy whose name has come, Sanjay Kalra or some Sanjeev Kalra... he was hiding and could not be traced ... he transferred the money for him (Azhar). He bought the watch, in Zimbabwe or England, and he (Chawla) transferred the money for him... Whatever, some connection is established, right,” says Gavaskar.

Former wicket-keeper Kiran More does not spare ex-manager Ajit Wadekar when he tells Prabhakar: “He (Wadekar) has made a lot of money and screwed the team also. He should have been kicked out at the right moment, even now he’s hanging around... Nayan Mongia is roaming freely.”

But Prabhakar comes across a wall when, as seen on the tapes, he approaches Navjyot Sidhu and Nayan Mongia for “support” after he alleged Kapil had offered him money. Sidhu is heard saying that he is in no position to help him because “I’m indebted to Kapil paaji. He gave me an opportunity to play, no matter what kind of person he is, I owe him a debt. I don’t want to be dragged into this.”

Even Wadekar says he mentioned the episode in the Sri Lankan hotel where Manoj was approached by Kapil in his match report, but does not commit himself to supporting Prabhakar.

Prashant Vaidya, the other player who “witnessed” Prabhakar’s hotel room outburst, says: “What an actor he (Kapil) is... Never seen such a great actor.”    


 
 
PRIVATE EYE WITH CAMERA IN BAG 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 27 
A cricketer-turned-politician-turned-private detective, that is what Manoj Prabhakar has become. But he blew his cover today in his attempt to “cleanse cricket” and lost a whole lot friends within the cricketing fraternity.

Prabhakar has unearthed fact and statements and personal beliefs of men who till the other day pointed fingers at him, saying he had no evidence to buttress his claim that Kapil Dev had approached him with an “offer” to “under-perform” in a match against Pakistan in 1994. They almost left him to be a madman pursuing a mirage. Today he turned the tables on those very men and exposed them as liars.

What cricket lovers throughout India had begun to believe — that Prabhakar was talking through his hat about match-fixing — will only be reinforced. In fact, Prabhakar said today at the end of the screening of the tapes that he had to “delve into a lot of dirt and filth to unearth muck”.

Prabhakar and one other reporter of tehelka.com used antiquated cameras and other not-so-advanced gadgets to expose men in power and those in the know of match-fixing. They carried the cameras attached to a bag or suitcase. At each person’s place or vehicle, the bag or the attache case was positioned in such a manner that, in most cases, the faces appeared.

Dressed in T-shirt and shorts, Shastri, for instance, was seen having a cup of coffee, Sunil Gavaskar was easing on a plush sofa, Navjyot Sidhu sipping beer and munching on chips, Inderjit Singh Bindra biting into a chicken drumstick, Lele was having a cup of tea.

Most others, like Congress leader Kamal Nath, sports minister Sukhbir Singh Dhindsa, Jagmohan Dalmiya, Mumbai police officer Rakesh Maria, Nayan Mongia and BCCI president A.C. Muthiah were at their desks. The tapes show former wicket keeper Kiran More reclining in a hotel room. Sanjay Manjrekar was filmed in a moving car.

Shastri was the coolest of them all. He abused freely in Hindi — the choicest ones — and his wife Ritu also implicated Ajay Sharma.

Not one official or cricketer who Prabhakar met either at their residences or in hotel rooms or in their office chambers had any clue that the little camera inside the bag was rolling.

After arriving at his rendezvous, Manoj would simply push a particular area of the bag and activate the lens.

The film and audio quality was at times poor and a lot of captions had to be used. The large audience at Le Meridien, however, could not view the portion of the tape in which Ajit Wadekar admits that he had mentioned the “Kapil offer” to Manoj in his match report.

There was pindrop silence in the large hall of the hotel. At the end, there was a loud applause, indication that Prabhakar had made a deep impression on the minds of the viewers.    


 
 
ATAL WALKS CABINET TIGHTROPE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 27 
Treading cautiously, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today expanded his council of ministers bringing back Nitish Kumar and inducting two new faces from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Arjun Sethi and B. K. Tripathi.

The infighting in the BJD saw the inglorious exit of Union steel minister Dilip Ray who was once a key trouble-shooter of Vajpayee. Ray was dropped, reportedly at the behest of BJD supremo and Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik who recommended Tripathi’s name instead. A dismissive Patnaik termed Ray’s resignation a result of “some personal problem.”

Vajpayee, who had recently conducted performance appraisal of his ministers, reshuffled portfolios of some but avoided drastic changes due to last-minute pressure from various quarters. Today’s exercise was thus restricted to three inductions and minor reallocations, once again underlining the compulsions of coalition politics.

Power minister P.R. Kumaramanglam and law minister Ram Jethmalani succeeded in retaining their portfolios though there were indications that they would be shifted out of their ministries. Jethmalani had even postponed his visit to London yesterday in view of today’s reshuffle.

Firebrand leader Uma Bharti failed to stage a comeback due to stiff opposition from within the BJP. Sources said BJP chief Kushabhau Thakre’s meeting with Vajpayee prevented Bharti’s return.

Some ministers of state like Rita Verma, Jaisingh Rao Gaekwad and Shahnawaz Hussain got new portfolios as they were not getting along with their Cabinet ministers.

Rita Verma is now minister of state for health and family welfare. Hussain has gone from food processing to youth affairs and Gaekwad from human resource development to mines. Chouba Singh, who was minister of state for youth affairs, will now look after food processing.

Nitish Kumar, re-inducted into the Cabinet, got the charge of agriculture ministry though he was keen on surface transport. Water resources minister C.P. Thakur has been shifted to health and family welfare ministry which has been upgraded to Cabinet rank. Earlier, the ministry was held by PMK’s Shanmugham, who has now been given independent charge of the coal ministry.

Arjun Sethi is the new minister for water resources while Tripathi has been given independent charge of ministry of steel. Union minister for youth and sports, S.S. Dhindsa has been given additional charge of the ministry of mines.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Max: 34.4°C (-1), Min: 28.4°C (+1) Relative Humidity: Maximum: 89% Minimum: 71% Rainfall: Trace Today: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of showers or thundershowers towards afternoon or evening. Maximum temperature likely to be around 35°C. Sunset: 6.12 pm, Sunrise: 4.55 am    
 

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