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Fixing things up

Manoj Prabhakar's motives in coming out with match-fixing allegations are somewhat suspect. He claims one of his teammates offered him money to ensure India lost to Pakistan in a tournament in Sri Lanka in 1994; yet he doesn't name the teammate. The first question that must be asked is why him? Was he such a pivotal player in the team at that time? Were there not others who could have ensured that the team would definitely have lost? Or were there others involved? If so, how many? Why has he waited nearly three years to come out with this story?

One thing is true about Prabhakar -- the man was sour after being dropped from the team, more sour after entering politics and failing to win a seat in last year's elections, and even more sour after announcing that he was coming back into cricket and finding that his shelf life was over. The magazine to which he gave this story has paid him well and the former Indian opener wants still more to reveal the names of those involved. If the man is willing to do all this for money, would he be the sort to turn down a sum of $72,000 -- around two and a half million Indian rupees -- which he claims he was offered in 1994?

Ajit Wadekar's claims too do not ring true. He says he had the Indian team's phones tapped when he was manager; somebody from the telecommunications department says it is not possible for this to be done, not unless one has officials doing it. Nobody would allow a person to tap another's lines without a valid reason. Wadekar's actual statement says that he kept a tap on the players' phone; whether this means he merely listened in on an extension or had the telephone department tap the line is open to intepretation.

Now into this mess walks a police officer, a former cricketer, who says he overheard a call between a bookmaker in Bombay and two Indian cricketers during India's tour of New Zealand in 1995. His claims are that he ordered the bookmaker, who had been under observation for some time, to call two Indian players and he says he was aghast when he realised that the match was being thrown. For two years, this honest officer has held his peace. Suddenly, he comes out with startling revelations.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, the secretary of the board, has shown his mettle by his reaction. For one thing the man feels that the assets of players are their own business and there is another agency in India to investigate that. An inquiry will be undertaken but this will be discussed only in August when the board meets again. That means the matter is not a pressing one, these charges of match-fixing have to be taken lightly, and, if possible, eveything must be swept under the table so that everybody can all go back to making money. Just the man the ICC needs at its head!

Given the way match-fixing allegations have been floating around in the subcontinent, something more than a national-level inquiry is needed. The ICC should take the matter up and get to the root. How come no other countries apart from India and Pakistan have been named? Is it something which has been going for a long time the way investigators discovered in football leagues in Malaysia and England? Or is it all a figment of the imagination? It is all very well to say that there must be fire in the vicinity of smoke, but that is neither here nor there. The degree of seriousness with which these allegations are treated will have a great deal of impact on the game.

After the allegations made by Aamer Sohail and now Prabhakar, one thing is clear -- the man on the street, the one who gets emotional when his team plays a one-day tie, has been given a licence to react violently whenever his team loses. With all these allegations flying around, one can always put a defeat to match-fixing, not human error. The behaviour of the Calcutta crowd during the World Cup semi-final will seem like a picnic once these convictions take hold. If Dalmiya thinks this is a summer cloud that is going to go away, he is sadly mistaken.

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