Where there is money, there is power, and where power lies, the Crooks prevail. Starting from the 1960s, now and then, the reports on match-fixing, spot-fixing and wild betting had circumambulated the game of cricket. In the 1980s such rumours started resurfacing again. But it was 2000’s which exposed the dirty deeds within the Game of the Gentlemen’s.
In 2013 the IPL scandal rocked the entire cricket universe proving that the match-fixing is a virus, which can only be contained but not fully destroyed. The most recent reports on match-fixing that resurfaced again through a sting operation that Al-Jazeera held in 2018. The bookies were seen admitting that they had 3 English and 2 Aussies, but no Indians, who helped them to carry out their dirty deeds. The matches where the concern was raised were India vs. Sri Lanka at Galle, India vs. England at Chennai and India vs. Australia at Ranchi. To which, the then CEO of ICC Dave Richardson admitted that, there are still a few loop-holes in the Game and the cold war vs. the Crooks within the Game is never-ending.
The 2000 saga that was exposed either coincidentally or by the will of God, when the Delhi police in April 2000, was trying to tape someone regarding something, somehow got hold of a person named Mukesh Gupta. On suspicion, they tapped his calls and miraculously received the call recordings between him and the then South African Captain, Hansie Cronje which established the dirty-deeds which elevated the issue. This act served as a purificatory ordeal of the Game of stature equivalent to religion in the country.
As it unfolded
The Delhi Police somehow got hold of the call-recordings that exposed the conspiracy related to “match-fixing and betting” during South Africa’s tour of India in 2000. Delhi Police immediately filed a charge-sheet for fixing matches between February and March 2000 where Chawla, along with former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was named.
In India, the scandal was ignited in 1997 when Manoj Prabhakar wrote for a Delhi-based magazine that he was offered 2.5 million rupees by a teammate to underperform in a match against Pakistan back in 1994. As no one heeded to his comments, assuming it as some trick to seek revenge with someone he had personal issues, the issue subsided. Interestingly, these accusations from Prabhakar came when he was low in his career and the allegations on match-fixing by two of Australian greats, Mark Waugh and Shane Warne on former Pakistani captain Salim Malik, stating that he had offered them a bribe to throw a test match, were widespread.
Manoj Prabhakar who played the most bizarre and mysterious role in the matter later announced that the player was Kapil Dev, the great Indian all-rounder, World Cup-winning Captain. He sent the nation into a tailspin.
As the Delhi Police charged Cronje as an accused of fixing two matches against India in 1999, on April 28, 2000, the government of India ordered the CBI for further probe.
Special mentions- the Tahelka blast which Prabhakar carried out, I still watch the Ravi Shastri’s segment as the AIB alternative.
The CBI later absolved Kapil and alleged Prabhakar that he had played a preeminent role in introducing international cricketers, the likes of Brian Lara, the former West Indies captain; Alec Stewart, the former England captain; Dean Jones, the Australian batsman; and Arjuna Ranatunga and Arvinda de Silva, the former Sri Lankan captains, to Gupta, the major accused bookmaker.
Trial and Reports
The CBI report of November accused a few players of having links with bookies and of “under-performing” in return for huge sums. The BCCI, whose role in the matter had come under criticism from the media to the CBI as they maintained the mode of denial. In a country where cricket had a stature of religion, there has been a public outcry demanding a boycott of the guilty.
On 11 April 2000, Cronje admitted that he took huge sums ($10,000 to $15,000) from an Indian bookmaker, Chawla for providing favours. He mentioned a Test against England in Centurion played on January 2000, where he forfeited South Africa’s second innings in a rain-affected match, which re-inflamed the controversy.
The CBI report, submitted to BCCI, on December 4, had linked Sharma with Azharuddin, with the former held responsible for introducing the bookmaker Mukesh Gupta to Azharuddin. Hansie Cronje, the South African captain who was banned, said Azharuddin introduced him to Gupta in 1997, in India. The report also suggested that such a widespread racket was not possible, without their knowledge.
A.C. Muthiah, the then chief of the BCCI, agreed that there was clear evidence of match-fixing against Azharuddin and Sharma who acted as a conduit for match-fixing. The report cited, other accused just had contacts with bookmakers and introduced players to the bookmakers, which also is a serious violation of cricketing regulations.
The other bookmakers and gamblers listed in the Delhi Police’s 2013 charge sheet were Rajesh Kalra, Krishan Kumar, Sunil Dara and Manmohan Khattar.
Pakistan was not at all hesitant to react to the allegations. After a probe in 1998, by Qayyum Commission, Captain Salim Malik was immediately banned for life and Wasim Akram, World’s renowned left arm fastie, was fined Rs 300,000 (£3,500) for failing to cooperate with the judicial inquiry.
In India, on December 5, 2000, Mohammed Azharuddin, the former India captain and one of the finest batsmen, was banned for life for his involvement in match-fixing. Ajay Sharma, who played just once for his country also was banned for life.
Ajay Jadeja, a flamboyant middle-order batsman, in the peak of his career, Dr Ali Irani, a physiotherapist, and Manoj Prabhakar, the culprit (as believed by many), who accused others of match-fixing, each received a five-year ban for their involvement with bookmakers.
The inquiry also alleged that Mark Waugh and Shane Warne had taken money from Indian bookmakers. The pair were fined after they admitted of sharing information to Indian bookmakers on weather and the state of the wicket.
Before the CBI report became public, Azharuddin said, he was being targeted because he belonged to the minority community, since the ruling party at that time was BJP.
Ajay Sharma told a news agency that the decision of the board is arbitrary and that he was going to seek legal remedy.
Jadeja denied any wrongdoing and said he would appeal against the punishment to restore his credibility.
Manoj Prabhakar ironically kept blabbing that it was he who launched the crusade to cleanse the game and have succeeded in doing so. He further stated that the BCCI did not even have the courtesy to note the contribution he made to clear the dirt. BCCI as of then had all the mystery cracked up and thus equated Prabhakar with other players.
Kapil Dev, the then Indian coach, furious and deeply hurt by those allegations broke out of his emotions, cried childishly during an interview and stated that the reward of his 17 years of service, had been rendered. Consequently, he resigned from his position and stayed away from the game for many years.
During the ’80s and 90s till 2000, it’s believed that the Underworld and Cricket went along. The famous name frequently associated was of Dawood Ibrahim. Fascinatingly it was said that he never bet or fixed any match against India, he wanted India to win by hook or crook.
In Sharjah a time was such that even the taxi drivers knew the script of the match way before it started.
In 1997, after the interview of Manoj Prabhakar to the Outlook, BCCI had formed the Chandrachud committee, to probe into the allegations. But the committee, would only take autographs of famous players like Sachin, and dismiss the issue entirely.
Herschelle Gibbs later admitted of accepting the bribe, but he performed quite well, despite pocketing the bookies’ money, in the mentioned match. Anyway, he got suspended for a year.
Former Pak captain Rashid Latif along with Basit Ali abruptly announced their retirement citing protest against prevailing match-fixing in the Pakistan team.
Rashid Latif still claims that he gave all the evidence he had, but nobody was found guilty. Salim Malik, whose career was at the end was the only Pakistani cricketer slapped with a life ban by PCB.
South Africa Cricket Board never cooperated with Indian police while they wanted to interrogate few players. Although, they too imposed the ban on a few players.
Bob Woolmer, former SA & Pak coach, was about to uncover all the match-fixing details in his soon to be published book. He died under mysterious circumstances, that too during the 2007 WC in Jamaica. The investigation which was hastily concluded by Jamaican police revealed that 5 Pakistani players were present in his room.
Madan Lal the famous team member of the 1983 World Cup-winning team once stated that he would never do a book or any other such because the truth that’s gonna get poured in the work will ruin the image of the Game.
Saurav Ganguly, the reviver of Indian Cricket had once said that no one approached him ever, but he witnessed few matches being part of the team, that shell-shocked him, but he had no proof of any.
Sanjeev Chawla, one of the accused in the 2000 match-fixing scandal, was arrested in London in 2003.
Ajay Jadeja got an opportunity to return into the mainstream. In Jan 2003, Delhi High Court overturned the ban. He meanwhile appeared in a Bollywood movie Khel also featuring Suniel Shetty.
The Legend, Kapil Dev could salvage his pride back, thanks to the award of Indian player of the century on July 2002. He started associating himself with the Game again. Recently he was the lead member among 3 to select the Head Coach of the Senior Men’s team.
Prabhakar got off shadows, far away from the Game. He was arrested by Uttaranchal police for cheating and fraud cases for multi-crore chit fund scam. He later served as a bowling coach to Delhi and as a Head coach to Rajasthan cricket team, and in 2016 was appointed as the bowling coach of Afghanistan Cricket Board. Presently, he deals in a herbal cosmetics company.
Ajay Sharma, who was banned for life, had been cleared of all charges in 2014. He then worked as a Deputy GM in a corporation company in Delhi.
On November 8, 2012, the Andhra Pradesh High Court lifted the life ban on Azharuddin, terming it as ‘unsustainable.’ He is now with his Gym chain business. Presently, in a run for the next Afghan Cricket Board’s Director.
Nayan Mongia, who played little further after the scandal was dropped when Sachin revealed, he won’t play if Nayan plays. This sums up the story.
Now both Azhar and Jadeja are back in the BCCI fold.
Hansie Cronje, who confessed his sins, declaring the God’s have asked him to do so, died in a mysterious plane crash, a few years later.
Impact on the Game
The incident had gravely hurt the Indians, such that the faith in cricket was lost. The Game once worshipped, was now doubted. The stadiums that used to fill, hours before the start of the match, remained empty, even during the matches. Public sentiments being devastated and backstabbed were at times harsh but were of, true emotions. Crooks were punished and the purificatory process began by handing over the task to salvage the remaining pride and win back those worshippers to a few young players.
The Indian cricket headed by the Reviver, Sourav ‘Dada’ Ganguly, magnificently brought the Game out of the slum to the present golden abode, where the worship of the game began, but certainly, was not as easy as penned out.