June 11: The scandal every cricket fan would love to declare a “dead-ball” has sprung back to life.
Ahmedabad police today said a top international cricket bookie has described to them how Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and Nayan Mongia offered him “tips” on factors that decided the fate of games.
Shobhan Mehta, whose business spanned India, Pakistan, England and Australia from his Mumbai headquarters, also named Australian Mark Waugh and the late South African captain Hansie Cronje, the police said.
Asked if the police would proceed against the three Indian cricketers, the additional police commissioner (crime branch), D.G. Vanzara, replied: “Investigations are on and we cannot disclose anything. But the crime branch will do whatever needs to be done. We will go step by step.’’
The allegations will increase pressure on the CBI, which had probed the match-fixing scandal, to revive the case which is now in cold storage.
They have also, for the first time, brought the police forces of Mumbai and Ahmedabad ' the hubs of cricket betting in the country ' on to the centre-stage of the probe.
Mehta was arrested by Ahmedabad police from a Mumbai hospital in a betting case while Mumbai police today raided the home of another alleged bookie, Arjun Nihalchandani alias Sindhi, in Gujarat’s Rajkot after having arrested him in Ahmedabad.
If what Mehta, who has been given conditional bail, told the police is true, the players are guilty of much more than offering tips on weather and pitch condition ' as some tainted Australian cricketers had told their board before being let off.
“Mehta used to bet on the result of a particular match 'like whether it will be a win or loss for one team or a draw,” Vanzara said.
The bookie and his associates used to get “tips about factors affecting a match, directly or indirectly, from the players. Tips about pitch condition, weather, toss, individual team strategy, physical fitness of important players and other matter were obtained by the bookies,” the officer said.
The revelations are unlikely to damage the players any further in cricketing terms. Azharuddin was banned for life after the Indian board found him guilty; Delhi High Court recently allowed Jadeja to play first-class cricket after the board slapped a five-year ban on him in December 2000. Mongia was given a clean chit and retired last year.
However, none of the players has been criminally prosecuted. The Mumbai police spokesman underlined the difficulty of this when asked if they would move against the cricketers.
“A bookie taking names does not prove a crime. The police can summon the named people for clarification and cross-checking' but they cannot be interrogated unless there is clear evidence of a crime,” the officer said.
“It becomes a crime if there is evidence to show that the individuals profited from betting activities.”
Mongia denied having “ever met or known” Mehta. The BCCI said it would “seriously” discuss the matter if the police sent a report.