Jadeja knew bookies, not their game
London probe to cover Indians
Map swap with China
Pressure on Delhi to allow Pak tour
Vote for the dead, seat for widow
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Nov. 4: 
Armed with a 15-page point-by-point rebuttal of the accusations against him, Ajay Jadeja today gambled by subjecting himself to a trial of innocence but ducked and dodged questions on why his name had figured in statements of Azharuddin and some bookmakers.

Jadeja, who said he hadn’t slept for 48 hours as he was preparing his defence, requested the media to help him clear his name.

“At no time in my career have I been involved with match-fixing as defined in the CBI report. At no time have I ever accepted money or any other form of consideration for underperforming in a cricket match,” Jadeja said.

The denial came at a news conference, held at the Women’s Press Corps, that was disrupted by Shiv Sainiks who barged in hurling abuse and rotten eggs at the cricketer.

Jadeja, along with Azhar, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Sharma and Nayan Mongia, has been banned from the sport by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) pending an internal inquiry into the report. The cricketer said he was ready to appear before K. Madhavan, a former CBI joint director, who will conduct the BCCI inquiry.

“The verdict that has been passed against me in the report is unfair and premised on evidence that is false and concocted,” Jadeja added.

Contesting the charge, a CBI spokesman said tonight the report was based on evidence gathered by the agency. He said the CBI had procured records of telephone calls made by Jadeja and a bookie, Uttam Chand.

The CBI report said Azhar had named Jadeja as one of the players involved with him in fixing matches. The agency said the evidence clearly established Jadeja had been close to some bookies.

CBI: Jadeja has close relations with a number of bookies, including Rajesh Kalra, Rattan Mehta, Uttam Chand, Kishen Kumar and Ajay Gupta. Mukesh Kumar Gupta said Jadeja met him in 1996 and offered to “do” matches.

Jadeja: “I will first state that I do acknowledge that I know to varying degrees some of the persons mentioned. However, I wish to clearly state that I have at no time been aware of their involvement with betting and match-fixing and have never received any money from them.”

CBI: Kalra said he personally knew Jadeja.

Jadeja: “I do know Kalra from occasional meetings at the Siri Fort Sports Complex and the gym at the Park Royal. The only conversation I remember having with him on the telephone is once when he called to ask if I was coming to the gym as he wanted to give his cousin or nephew an autograph.”

CBI: Uttam Chand and Rattan Mehta said they paid money to Jadeja in exchange for judgement and information on cricket matches.

Jadeja: “I know Rattan Mehta and I have met him many times. I also continue to state that I have neither accepted money from nor fixed matches for Rattan Mehta.

“I do not know what Rattan Mehta means by the term judgement.”

CBI: It is difficult to accept Jadeja’s statement that he did not know Rattan was a big time punter given his accepted closeness to him.

Jadeja: “....let me state that over 90 per cent of Rattan Mehta’s calls to me or mine to him have not been during any cricket matches and have instead been while I was in Delhi when I have not been playing any such matches.”

CBI: Chennai-based bookie Uttam Chand said he often called the player during matches and he had paid Jadeja up to Rs 6 lakh through the hawala route.

Jadeja: “I accept that I occasionally spoke to Ramesh Gupta, whom the CBI is trying to identify as Uttam Chand, but certainly not in the manner and to the extent implied by the list of random sample of cell phone calls.” (But in tonight’s reaction, the CBI insisted that “the calls were made only during matches”.)

Jadeja admitted knowing Kishen Kumar as well, but only as an actor. He denied having ever met bookie Ajay Gupta. Jadeja, however, refused to answer why he had never been able to guess these men were bookies despite knowing them for years. He also avoided queries on how is it that all five players named by the CBI were known to the same bookies.

Jadeja denied Azhar’s statement that he “did” matches with him and Mongia. He said he could not have colluded with Azhar in fixing an Indo-Pak match at Jaipur because he was the top scorer. But he refused to respond to repeated questions on why, then, had Azhar named him. At the same time, Jadeja refused to file a defamation suit against either Azhar or the CBI.

Jadeja tried to play the part, unconvincingly, of a man wronged. The boyish smile never fading, he sought to prove his innocence by expressing surprise at the very concept of match-fixing.

Azhar silence

Azharuddin continued to remain elusive. “He is not speaking to anybody. If he wishes to make any statement, we will let you know,” his brother Abrar told PTI.    

New Delhi, Nov. 4: 
The International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption wing will investigate the global spread of match-fixing and betting and its ambit will cover both foreign as well as Indian cricketers.

The ICC team of Martin Hawkins and Alan Peacock met CBI officials who had conducted the inquiry for about two hours. The CBI team comprised joint director R.N. Savani, deputy inspector-general Y.P. Singh and superintendent of police M.A. Ganapathi.

The ICC investigators refused to comment, only saying that the meeting was “fruitful”. The sleuths are scheduled to meet the CBI again on Monday.

The team from London was extensively briefed on how the bureau conducted its investigation and how the report was prepared. CBI officials are willing to share with the ICC whatever information the agency has.

“We are prepared to show them the individual statements made by cricketers and bookies,” an official said. “But it all depends on what they want.”

The CBI believes that the ICC officials were not just interested in investigating the role of the nine foreign players named in the report, but also the involvement of the five Indians under cloud.

It is unlikely that the team will meet the bookies, although their addresses have been put out in the report.

The ICC will also discuss with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) the CBI’s stinging remarks against the manner in which it runs the game.

The CBI has come under criticism for naming the foreign players, without speaking to them, on the basis of the statements of bookmaker Mukesh Kumar Gupta, Manoj Prabhakar and Mohammed Azharuddin.

But CBI sources argued that Gupta had no reason to make false statements and his version was corroborated by the players.

The nine foreign cricketers named are England’s Alec Stewart, Australians Dean Jones and Mark Waugh, West Indies’ Brian Lara, Pakistan’s Salim Malik, New Zealander Martin Crowe, Sri Lankans Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva and South Africa’s disgraced captain Hansie Cronje.

CBI sources said that though most of the foreign players have not given their version on their alleged relations with Gupta, at least some like Crowe have not disputed that they accepted money. “It does not cut much ice when Crowe says he accepted $20,000 from Gupta for writing articles. It is Crowe’s word against Gupta’s,” an official said.

“Similarly,” he added, “Waugh has admitted to being approached by a bookie called John. Who else is John but Gupta himself?”

The CBI will place before the ICC the facts relating to the foreign players as they emerged from the inquiry.

The agency is convinced that the ICC will not be able to overlook the fact that cricketers and bookies have made signed statements against the foreign players. “They (ICC) will then have to examine the players themselves to get to the truth. As far as the report is concerned, everything has been placed on record,” an official said.    

New Delhi, Nov. 4: 
India and China are likely to exchange maps on the border for the first time since the armed conflict of 1962, finally putting on paper their respective positions on the boundary dispute.

The maps are expected to be swapped at the forthcoming meeting of the Experts Group in Beijing on November 13 and 14, when the two sides will try for a set of confidence-building measures to ensure peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). In the past, India and China have exchanged maps only once — way back in 1960.

The two sides are likely to make a modest beginning by concentrating on the 2,000-sq km middle-sector along the LAC, between Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. This is a clear indication of the growing urgency, at least in Delhi, to find an early settlement to the border dispute.

The government, particularly Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, will have to start a consultation process with the main Opposition parties soon to rally the nation on this sensitive issue. The issue came up for discussion at yesterday’s Cabinet committee on security chaired by Vajpayee.

Defence minister George Fernandes, who visited Arunachal Pradesh following charges by chief minister Mukut Mithi about incursions by Chinese troops, said he found no cause for alarm. There was nothing to suggest that Chinese troops had crossed over the LAC to the Indian side, he added.

The defence minister’s assurance strengthens the thinking in the Indian establishment that the border dispute with China must be settled as early as possible.

Significantly, the change in Delhi’s attitude is taking place at a time when Vajpayee is the Prime Minister. As India’s foreign minister, he had taken the initiative in bringing about a thaw in Sino-Indian relations, which had gone into a deep freeze after the 1962 conflict.

China, on its part, has resolved its border disputes with Vietnam and Russia and the country’s leadership will look forward to an amicable and “mutually satisfying” solution to the boundary dispute with India.    

New Delhi, Nov. 4 
The International Cricket Council is exerting pressure on the Indian cricket board to resume matches between India and Pakistan.

The BCCI, which also wants the neighbours to resume cricketing relations, is in turn applying pressure on the government to soften its stand and allow the Pakistan team to tour India this winter.

In his October 19 letter to board president A.C. Muthiah, ICC chief executive David Richards virtually questioned why the Centre was not allowing the Indian team to play Pakistan either at home or abroad. He said the Indian government did not appear to be favourably disposed towards the game since it was allowing matches between the two in other sports.

“It appears that the Indian government has not been favouring cricket as compared to other sports, such as polo and hockey, which continue to be played between the two countries,” Richards said.

The Australian representative on the world body told Muthiah that the ICC would be “obliged if you would clarify your government’s policy with regard to cricket matches between India and Pakistan, played in either country”.

Richards is worried that if India continues to avoid playing Pakistan, the whole 10-year programme schedule of matches between member countries could be “jeopardised”.

According to norms laid down by the ICC executive board, a 10-year tour programme requires each country to play the others on a regular home and away basis. Under the programme, India and Pakistan are scheduled to play each other six times through the period.

The ICC tough-talk came despite the fact that it was “aware” that the Indian government had refused approval for the Sahara Cup scheduled to take place in Toronto between India and Pakistan.

Muthiah, who was summoned here by the Centre today to discuss the CBI’s match-fixing report and possible action against the five accused, took up the matter with sports minister S.S. Dhindsa.

He submitted a copy of Richards’ letter to Dhindsa and urged him to reconsider the government stand, saying that India and Pakistan should resume cricketing relations in the interest of the game.

Dhindsa was non-committal when asked whether the Centre would allow the Pakistan team to tour India this winter. But the Centre does not appear to be in a mood to relax the virtual ban on India playing Pakistan either at home or at venues abroad.    

Washington, Nov. 4: 
The American electorate is all set to create the mother of political dynasties next week when it elects a dead man to the US Senate and allows his widow, a housewife, to take his place on Capitol Hill.

Jean Carnahan, the widow of Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash on October 16, announced this week that she was willing to take his place if her late husband gets more votes in the November 7 Senate election than his Republican rival and incumbent Senator John Ashcroft.

Missouri’s weird election law allows a deceased candidate to remain on the ballot and get elected to the Senate or the House of Representatives. It is up to the state Governor then to nominate anyone he chooses to fill the vacancy caused by a posthumous election.

Jean Carnahan, a Sonia Gandhi of sorts in Missouri, was obviously persuaded by the Democratic party’s leadership to take the plunge after opinion polls showed a surge in sympathy for the late Governor after his death. The Governor who was making his first bid for the Senate, was trailing Ashcroft throughout the year-long election campaign.

For Democrats, who are close to a majority in the Senate, every seat is important in next week’s poll.

Roger Wilson, a Democrat who served as Lieutenant Governor under Mel Carnahan, succeeded the late Governor and has promised to nominate the widow if Carnahan gets more votes than Ashcroft in the November 7 election.

Ashcroft, a Republican presidential aspirant in the long run, is today a broken man in the light of the strange turn of events which may even cost him his Senate seat. He had suspended his campaign for eight days out of what he called “respect for the dead”, but in reality because he was so sure of his victory.

The American media, which is finding the Missouri race one of the most gripping stories in this election season, has become Ashcroft’s favourite whipping boy as he sees his opinion poll figures dip with every passing day.

Ashcroft who was leading the polls until the Governor’s death was trailing by two per cent on Sunday. But a poll conducted after Jean Carnahan took the plunge, put the late Governor as much as five per cent ahead of Ashcroft.

Jean Carnahan bristles at suggestions that she is unqualified for the Senate because of lack of any political experience.

Her only direct role in her late husband’s election campaigns so far has been as an appointments scheduler when he contested for Missouri’s Treasurer many years ago. Asked by reporters about her qualifications, the widow said she was “someone who worked behind the scenes much of the time”. She and the late Governor “worked as partners”.

Jean Carnahan said she “sat many hours in the kitchen here and talked about his dreams” with her deceased husband. Seeking to dispel the impression that she has been a “rearrange-the-furniture” kind of First Lady in Missouri, Jean Carnahan said she was the author of three books: one about entertaining at Christmas and another about the history of the Governor’s mansion in Missouri.

She unwittingly admitted that grief over her personal loss was the reason that propelled her to move to Washington. Jean Carnahan said she last week watched a TV journalist, Cokie Roberts, remembering how her father, Congressman Hale Boggs, was killed in a plane crash and was succeeded by her mother, Lindy Boggs. The decision helped both the mother and daughter to largely cope with the grief, the TV journalist asserted.

If Mel Carnahan posthumously defeats Ashcroft next Tuesday, he would have created history: no one has ever been posthumously elected to the Senate, although two candidates have won election to the House of Representatives after their death.

But if Jean Carnahan does fill the Missouri seat after her husband’s death, it will not be the first time that political dynasties have been created in the US in this manner.

Although three widows of Congressmen are now in the House of Representatives, they all won by-elections caused by their husband’s death. That Americans do not look down upon political dynasties is, however, clear from the subsequent re-election victories of all three for full terms in the House.    



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