In April it was Cronje, now it’s Manoj Prabhakar
Cronje was plain greedy: John Reid
An enigma called Prabhakar
George beat Aryan 2-1, enter quarters
Title for Allied Domecq
Gesture has the edge
Scene scores

Dhaka, May 27 
The weather may eventually prove spoilsport No. 1 in the Pepsi Asia Cup, but the villain of the moment is Manoj ‘Undercover Operative’ Prabhakar.

In fact, after yet another sensational Prabhakar performance, back in New Delhi this evening, cricket circles here have been quick to bracket him with disgraced former South African captain Hansie Cronje.

Though Cronje obviously had no role in the stunning Delhi police exercise, on April 7, which also was the eve of the much-hyped Asia vs Rest of World match in Dhaka, his ‘acts’ alone were instrumental in taking the sheen off that star-spangled game.

With the seventh edition of Asia’s premier competition officially set to begin tomorrow, Prabhakar’s latest set of revelations have again turned the spotlight away from actual cricket here. No one is taking too kindly to that — this includes sponsors.

Ironically, Prabhakar’s performance today coincided with Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Saber Hossain Choudhury hoping the tournament (with over $ 78,000 at stake) “would help unite and restore the image of the game.”

Irrespective of who fares how well, though, much of the talk in these parts throughout the Asia Cup is expected to centre around the Kapil Devs, Mohammed Azharuddins and Ajay Jadejas. Some of lesser players, as well.

Asia Cup may start Monday

The elements, of course, could provide keen competition. Already, there’s a handsome chance the tournament may begin on Monday, a rest day, instead of tomorrow.

It rained very heavily both early in the day and late in the evening, and while a formal postponement hasn’t been announced, both holders Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have agreed to playing the day-after, if necessary.

“The umpires (Srinivas Venkatraghavan and Salim Badar) will make an inspection, early on, and then continue doing so. Allowing for a two-hour extension beyond the scheduled close and taking into account that each team must face a minimum of 25 overs, the umpires can wait latest till 8.30 pm (8 pm IST),” explained the BCB president.

But will the three other rest days also be converted to reserve days?

“It would make sense to use such ‘cushions’. However, all teams must agree. In any case, the Asia Cup has to end by June 8 (reserve day for the final). We can’t go beyond that,” Choudhury pointed out.

While India are due to arrive tomorrow afternoon, Pakistan will check-in on June 1.

Significantly, developments back home fuelled speculation whether Kapil would come with the team. Till late tonight, though, there was no firm pointer that he would not.

Meanwhile, BCB general-secretary Ashraf-ul Haq admitted the services of a second super-sopper cannot be availed of. “We requested the CAB for help (as was done during the Wills International Cup, in late 1998), but the one at the Eden apparently is malfunctioning. So, we’ll have to make do with the one we ourselves have,” he said.

It’s an unusual coincidence there was a deluge both before the 1988 Asia Cup and that meet in late 1998, the two biggest tournaments hosted by Bangladesh. This time, sadly, there could be cloudbursts by the dozen during yet another high-profile meet.

A million fingers, therefore, are being kept crossed. For the hosts, especially, it’s a big tournament.    

Dhaka, May 27 
Match Referees generally only interact verbally with captains. However, former New Zealand and Rest of World captain John Reid is different: He actually hands over a list of dos and don’ts.

In other words, Reid means business and makes that clear at the outset.

Reid, who has returned to Dhaka after 45 years (last visit being for a Test against Pakistan), spoke to The Telegraph at The Sheraton this afternoon. Understandably, he didn’t talk about the match-fixing allegations flying around in the sub-continent, but presented a ‘new’ picture of Hansie Cronje, whom he has known in different capacities.

Following are excerpts

On his reaction to developments in the past six-seven weeks

I’m angry. My old comrades and I are all appalled. What has happened, should never have occurred. The game has been brought to disrepute by, of all people, captains (Cronje, Salim Malik). It’s against the very spirit of the game, against the ICC’s Code of Conduct which is very specific... It’s been terrible for cricket. Cricketers, today, earn so much — why hanker for more?

On cricketers’ confessions revolving around small sums in the region of $ 10-15,000 only

It’s ridiculous. Surely, nobody believes that. Why should cricketers interact with bookies and racketeers? Also, why should racketeers and bookies pay for weather reports and such like? They can call the local radio station for that. What has surfaced is, let’s say, the tip of the iceberg.

On where exactly did cricket go wrong

Hard to put a finger... I suppose, though, if you talk of money in the region of £ 500,000 — a figure quoted only recently — you could buy anybody. Depending on the circumstances, it may be hard to decline such an offer.

On whether, in seven years as Match Referee, he ever felt something was amiss

No... But in recent weeks, I have cast a sideways glance at some of the results. Having said that, let me add upsets are possible (in ODIs, specially). Reduce a top team to 25 for three and it may not even reach 150. (Adds laughing) New Zealand have posted some (upsets)...

On his impressions of Cronje

Having coached him when he was 18 or so in Johannesburg, during the time I was temporarily based in South Africa, I wasn’t quite as conned (by Cronje) as the rest of the world. He wasn’t, then, an outstanding cricketer but he definitely progressed from there... Then, on that 1996 tour of India, I saw him have a problem with the local manager in Mumbai... There were one or two other incidents, as well. So, unlike many, I wasn’t quite taken in by his squeaky clean image.

On his reaction when the Cronje scandal broke

I was surprised, I confess. He didn’t need the money. Moreover, I didn’t expect somebody of his (public) standing to interact with bookies. I think he was plain greedy and, honestly, I thought he had more brains. For a top cricketer to take a dive is, well...

On whether he is satisfied with the South African Board and the ICC’s response

The correct thing is to have an inquiry, the course adopted by South Africa. As for the ICC, it’s now moving in the right direction (listing Unacceptable Behaviour and spelling out penalties).

On allegations that the Titan Cup final (India versus South Africa) and Mohinder Amarnath’s Benefit ODI, both in Mumbai (late 1996), were fixed

(Grins) Sure, I was the Match Referee then, but I had no idea. Indeed, I’m shocked at reports the South Africans had three team meetings to decide on whether or not to tank that Benefit match. Are inducement-offers to be discussed at team meetings? If you ask me, just one chap (Cronje) can’t be involved.

On Malik implicating even New Zealanders and captain Stephen Fleming himself having been approached on the tour of England, last year

Well, Stephen did the right thing by informing the rest of the tour management, though I feel he should also have briefed the Match Referee... As a former New Zealand captain I’m obviously very disappointed with the allegations. Pained, too.

Finally, whether he will dwell on the recent scandals at the customary pre-tournament meeting with the captains, managers, coaches and umpires

(Grins agains) I don’t have to, the ICC’s Code of Conduct is clear. In any case, I don’t judge anything in advance. Actually, my message would be to get on with the game. Will I be a wee bit more alert? I’m always watchful.    

Calcutta, May 27 
After today’s ‘video-tape revelations’ by Manoj Prabhakar, one can’t help but wonder why he would go to such lengths to try and pin Kapil Dev.

Is he a man with a mission to cleanse Indian cricket or is he a man still burning with the desire to get back at someone who had stepped on his toes?

At least Kapil has hinted that his former teammate is bent on revenge because of two incidents.

In 1986, Prabhakar was made to sit out the Leeds Test despite being in the squad as Madanlal, then playing in the Lancashire League, was preferred. Kapil was the skipper.

Then, in the early Nineties, when Kapil was a director in a company, he spoke out against recruiting Prabhakar. It is believed Kapil fell out with Prabhakar and Raman Lamba, who was also employed by the company.

If Prabhakar had shored up that hatred from the humiliations and is using it to fuel his latest tirade against one of cricket’s top icons, only he can tell. However, the intensity with which he is now pursuing his ‘mission’ could well suggest a growing desperation in him.

It is always foolhardy to point fingers in public at someone without sufficient proof and Prabhakar, having made that cardinal mistake (via third party, really), is now inundated in the clamour for proof.

It is now Kapil’s word against Prabhakar’s and, with no proof in his posession and the prospect of a huge defamation suit in his lap, there is no doubt that Prabhakar needed to act quickly.

Prabhakar, as he said today, had to “clear his name”. Credibility had to be salvaged.

He is doing the next best thing to getting solid proof — he is building up a string of ‘alibis’.

He has already dragged several former cricketers and officials into the mess and, through today’s ‘video evidence’, has tried to show that they are indeed corroborating what he has insisted all along.

Today’s ‘revelations’ will, of course, keep the pot boiling. Angry reactions, denials and even corroborations are expected to follow from some of those on the tapes —- and from some not on them.

But the clamour for proof will not end. This time Prabhakar has to prove the authenticity of the contents in the tapes (after all, as BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele was quick to point out, modern technology makes doctoring so easy).

Or else, the verdict will remain the same: There is still no proof that Kapil Dev had offered him money in 1994 to underperform in an international match.

So, Manoj Prabhakar has to still keep trying and no one would want to hazard a guess on what he will do next.

After all, when Prabhakar had the ball in his hand, no one knew which way the ball would swing.    

Calcutta, May 27 
George Telegraph defeated Aryan 2-1 in the pre-quarter finals of the McDowell Cup at Bata today.

Arindam Haldar and Sanjay Radhu scored for the winners, while Gautam Naha pulled one back for Aryan.

Milan Bithee got past BNR 2-0 at Kamargachi. Sailen Pan and Debkumar Sashmal were the scorers.

At Sodhpur, FCI thrashed City AC 4-0, scoring through Debasish Pakrashi, Amar Pyne, Saikat Mondal and Subhasish RoyChowdhury.

At Narayanpur, ERSA defeated Eveready 2-1. Prashanta Ghosh and Uttam Das scored for ERSA while the consolation strike for Eveready came from Amit Das.

City referee

City-based Udayan Haldar has been chosen to officiate in the Asian Youth tournament to be played in Tehran from June 23 to July 1.

Junior tennis

Top seed Manoj Sewa will take on eighth seed Subhoditya Nath in the finals of the under-16 boys’ singles in the Britannia junior age group tennis meet, organised by Enrico Piperno Tennis Training Centre, at the Ordnance Club.

Sewa thrashed third seed Rupesh Roy 6-0, 6-0, while Nath upset fourth seed Indradeep Mitra 1-6, 7-5, 6-4.    

Calcutta, May 27 
Allied Domecq won The Telegraph Merchants Cup football tournament, defeating Selvel A 1-0 in sudden death at the CC&FC today. With regulation and extra time remaining goalless, sudden death was resorted to. S. Adhikary scored for Allied.

Bata won the losers plate defeating Pepsico 3-0. HTA won the bowl plate, beating Modi Xerox 2-0.

Ground improvement

Ashok Bhattacharya, minister of state for urban development and municipal affairs met leading sports personalities of the state yesterday to discuss how the grounds in Calcutta and all municipal corporations of the state can be improved. The proposed astro-turf, to be laid at the Rangers ground, was also discussed.    

Bangalore, May 27 
It is Fantastic Belle versus Bountiful Gesture for the 1,200m Karnataka Police Trophy, tomorrow’s feature event here. The two youngsters look the best on their current workouts. But going by their previous runs during the winter season, Bountiful Gesture appears has the edge over her main rivals. Aslam Kader partners the Darashah-trained filly.


2.30 pm: Ispahan 1. Semoran 2. Water Baby 3.

3 pm: All Cheers 1. Classic Invitee 2. Clinton’s Pet 3.

3.30 pm: Blue Ridge 1. All Above 2. Skye 3.

4 pm: Bountiful Gesture 1. Fantastic Belle 2. Sun Gold 3.

4.30 pm: Fereneze 1. Alminstar 2. Soul Of Gold 3.

5 pm: Prime Target 1. Royal Glare 2. Polish Power 3.

5.30 pm: Access All Areas 1. Kingston Heath 2. Tudor King 3.

Day’s Best: Blue Ridge Double: Fereneze & Access All Areas.    

In an exciting finish the Jim Foley-trained filly, Starry Scene just about managed to beat Sea Classic in the Speaker’s Cup, in Bangalore races on Saturday.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Esquire Plate 1,200m: (11-6-2) Complimentary (M. Narredu) 1; Silvano 2; Glencruitten 3. Not run: Melodeon (10). Won by: 4-1/4; 4; (1-16.1). Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 12; 14; 25; Quinella: 23; Tanala: 93. Fav: Complimentary (11).

2. Astounding Plate, Div-II 1,200m: (5-4-1) Empress Of India (Warren) 1; Decision Maker 2; William Blake 3. Won by: 2; 3/4; (1-17.2). Tote: Win Rs 74; Place: 23; 19; 59; Quinella: 282; Tanala: 11,194. Fav: Breaking Thru (2).

3. Sir Charles Todhunter Memorial Cup 1,600m: (1-3-8) Elusive Emperor (Kader) 1; Desert Pride 2; Large And Incharge 3. Not run: Fast Vision (11). Won by: 2-1/4; 8; (1-40.1). Tote: Win Rs 46; Place: 20; 11; 26; Quinella: 36; Tanala: 280. Fav: Desert Pride (3).

4. Speaker’s Cup 1,400m: (8-2-4) Starry Scene (Prakash) 1; Sea Classic 2; Silent Force 3. Won by: SH; Dist; (1-27.3). Tote: Win Rs 23; Place: 11; 12; 13; Quinella: 37; Tanala: 109. Fav: Starry Scene (8).

5. Astounding Plate, Div-I 1,200m: (6-3-10) Dior (Faisal Ismail) 1; Neha’s Prince 2; Cliff Side 3. Won by: Nk; 1-3/4; (1-17.2). Tote: Win Rs 53; Place: 21; 16; 31; Quinella: 61; Tanala: 938. Fav: Neha’s Prince (3).

6. R. N. Mirza Memorial Plate 1,400m: (2-8-1) Allaire (Kader) 1; Saujas 2; Il Diablo 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 5-1/4; (1-27.5). Tote: Win Rs 18; Place: 12; 25; 25; Quinella: 109; Tanala: 549. Fav:Allaire (2).

7. Lady Gibraltar Plate 1,400m: (8-11-2) Resist The Force (S. Babu) 1; Wonderful Babe 2; Tierrce 3. Won by: 5; 3/4; (1-30.1). Tote: Win Rs 591; Place: 72; 63; 11; Quinella: 4,887; Tanala: 1,07,210 (Carried over). Fav: Tierrce (2).

Jackpot: Rs 90,783 (Carried over); (C) Rs 161.

Treble: (i) Rs 815; (ii) Rs 5,139.    


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