M A I N   N E W S

He keeps an eagle eye on cricketers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal and Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 10
A smartly dressed Sardar paces a long room at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium at Mohali. Entry to this room is allowed only if the visitor is a VVIP like a Governor or a Chief Minister.

Like an eagle, he quietly observes everything in the room. Those who want access to the dressing rooms of the Indian and Pakistani teams have to approach him for permission. He carefully watches them as they walk into those rooms or come out of them.

He keeps an eye on every Indian and Pakistani player. Every gesture they make, every person they meet, and everywhere they go is taken note of.

The Tribune team approaches him for a meeting but he politely declines. But our curiosity gets the better of us. A little probing reveals that he is Mr Niranjan Singh Virk, a former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer who is now one of the five regional security managers of the International Cricket Councilís (ICC) anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU).

The London-based ASCU is an independent watchdog of the ICC, the sole purpose of which is to ensure that cricket remains free from match fixing and bookies.

Assigned to India and Sri Lanka, Mr Virkís job is to follow cricket players across the country during matches and ensure that the protocol laid by the ICC to tackle corruption in the game, is not breached.

Players are subjected to a stringent access control. No player can talk to any outsider while the match is on. Mobiles are banned for players and only the team manager can retain a mobile telephone for emergency use during the period they play.

Even the selected few who are permitted to interact with the players while they are in the dressing rooms are under surveillance. Special close-circuit cameras are at work and every visitor to the dressing room is caught on camera and cross-checked for reporting to the ICC.

Mr Virk does not work alone. He uses inputs from the local intelligence and private agencies having information about known and potential bookies and their contacts, if any, with the players.

For example, for the current India Pakistan series, Mr Virk is believed to have an entire data bank of the bookies operating not just in Pakistan and India but other cricket-playing countries as well. He operates in tandem with his own highly secret network of sources to keep a watch on the movement of international cricket bookies and their channels of communication.

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