Friday, April 28, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Govt to probe match-fixing
From M S Unnikrishnan

NEW DELHI, April 27 — Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa announced here today that the government will order a probe to unearth the match-fixing and betting racket in cricket. However, the minister refused to divulge the nature of the probe committee, which, he said, he would announce in Parliament in ‘‘three to four days’ time’’.

‘‘I cannot, at this stage, say which government agency will enquire. There are so many options available, including a CBI probe, but I will announce the exact nature of the probe committee only in Parliament’’, said Mr Dhindsa, adding a bit apologetically that he was bound by Parliament rules, and hence cannot disclose anything outside of it.

The Department of Sports under the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports had called a meeting of former and present Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) presidents and secretaries, former Indian cricket captains, a few other cricket officials, players and coaches to thoroughly discuss and find solution to end the match-fixing and betting scandal currently dogging the game, at the National Stadium here today. And after about three hours of ‘‘positive interaction’’, the minister read out a prepared statement at a crowded press briefing, in which he stated that ‘‘all members (who attended the meeting) expressed grave concern about the current controversy regarding match-fixing, and stressed the need for eliminating the menace and restoring the credibility of the noble sport’’.

Mr Dhindsa said the BCCI has ‘‘committed’’ to share whatever documents or information that may be available with it, including the report of the managers, that may have impact on the issue, with the government.

Mr Dhindsa also revealed that he had asked former Indian Test player Manoj Prabhakar to disclose the names of the players involved in match-fixing and ‘‘I have also assured him of full police protection’’. But the minister said he could only ‘‘request’’ the player to disclose the names and ‘‘not force him to do it’’.

Mr Dhindsa said he was satisfied with the discussions as ‘‘very valuable and constructive suggestions were made for improvement of on-field performance of the cricket team and good off-field conduct’’. He said after carefully considering all the suggestions, the ‘‘government will decide what should be done’’.

He said the BCCI has ‘‘strongly reiterated its complete support’’ to assist in whatever steps the government may initiate. The minister said the BCCI has also agreed to review the existing code of conduct for players ‘‘to achieve higher standards and deterrents, as required. It was also suggested that players\officials should consider a voluntary scheme of declaration of assets’’.

The minister also announced that the BCCI has agreed to prepare a five-year ‘‘vision document (detailed long-term development programme)’’ in the next three months, covering all aspects for improving the standard of cricket in India, and the document will be discussed by the Sports Ministry before implementing.

Mr Dhindsa asked ‘‘persons in possession of evidence pertaining to match-fixing to come forward, and make the relevant information available (to the probe agency), and persons making such disclosures will be provided adequate protection by the government’’.

Mr Dhindsa said other than the FIR (first information report) registered by the Delhi Police, the government does not have any specific complaint against any particular Indian cricketers or office-bearers of the BCCI, but he assured that the government will, in all seriousness, initiate necessary legal measures against practices of match-fixing on the basis of specific complaints that may be received, after necessary investigation.

‘‘The government will take recourse to all legal measures to ensure that this menace is not only curbed, but eliminated’’, he asserted.

Among those called for the meeting, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley, who had to ‘‘rush to Mumbai,’’ and former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar, did not attend. Indian captain Saurav Ganguly was allowed to skip the meeting by the BCCI (the board extended the invitation to the current players of the national team) as he is scheduled to play his first county championship game for Lancashire against Kent.

Besides Mr Dhindsa, others who attended the meeting were Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Th Chaoba Singh, former board presidents N.K.P. Salve, Madhavrao Scindia, Inderjit Singh Bindra, Raj Singh Dungarpur and present incumbent A.C. Muthia, former board secretaries C. Nagraj, Jagmohan Dalmia and present incumbent J.Y. Lele, former Indian captains Bishan Singh Bedi and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (as special invitees), Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Mohd Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, former players Kirti Azad and Chetan Chauhan (both members of Parliament), Madan Lal, Dronacharya cricket coaches Gurcharan Singh and Des Prem Azad, board vice-president Manohar Joshi, treasurer Kishore Rungta, Kamal Morarka, Rajiv Shukla (MP), D.K. Mittal, Director-General, Sports Authority of India (SAI), and secretary Amrit Mathur, and a couple of officials from the Sports Ministry.

Delhi and District Cricket Association sports secretary Sunil Dev, former players Manoj Prabhakar and Maninder Singh ‘‘were special invitees’’ for the lunch hosted by the SAI. In fact, the SAI had rolled out the red carpet for the meeting, and picked up the tab for dressing up the National Stadium with flowers and garlands, to ‘‘suit the grand occasion’’, as an official put it, with tongue firmly in his cheek.

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