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Match-fixing: journalists under a cloud

Indian cricket has never been the same since Manoj Prahakar's sensational disclosure to a magazine named Outlook that he was approached by a team-mate to tank a match. The Indian cricketers, who were in Bangalore for a conditioning camp ahead of the tour to Sri Lanka for the Pepsi Asia Cup and a two-Test series, seemed to be constantly looking over their shoulders and generally, kept away from the horde of journalists.

Mum was the word as even routine queries by reporters were met with stoic silence from Indian sport's demi-Gods. However, one journalist, Debashish Dutta of Aajkal, Calcutta, a popular Bengali daily, enjoyed special access given to only a few, "privileged" journalists, with the cricketers.

Dutta, along with R. Mohan of The Hindu, was named as the two journalists who allegedly had "inside information" about betting and "fixed" matches, in the accompanying article in the Outlook magazine which gave a good play to Prabhakar's story.

While there has been no public reaction from either The Hindu or Aajkal, the grapewine has it that the former took disclosures in the Outlook seriously. While the veracity of this rumour needs to be ascertained, it was a fact that Mohan, undoubtedly the most widely read among Indian cricket writers in the recent years, proceeded on "long leave" immediately after the publication of the Outlook story.

Later, it was rumoured that Mohan had quit The Hindu and joined Gulf News as their political and sports correspondent in India. Also, he was taken on as a cricket consultant by Pepsi who are in the midst of a Corporate battle with their rivals, Coca Cola for a share of Indian market.

It will never be known whether Mohan and Dutta, indeed, were in the thick of things as far as "fixed" mathches are concerned. The Outlook reported that both these journalists, who have been on the cricketing road for a decade and a half, were in constant touch with bookies.

All this might sound far-fetched, but the undeniable fact is that Indian ricket finds itself in a quagmire of suspicion and intrigue. While rabhakar, being questioned by Indian Cricket Board's one-man inquiry commission of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Chandrachud, maintains that it was pointless to name the player who had approached him, the others of his ilk have not taken his pronouncements too kindly.

Arun Lal, secretary of the now inactive Association of Indian Cricket Players, claimed that Prabhakar's allegations were "unsubstantiated" and only served to sully the image of the game. "You mean to say just one player can arrange the result of a match? Certainly not. It requires either eight or nine players, if not the entire team, to tank a match. I just don't believe that a player wearing the national colours can stoop to such a level as betting against his own country," he said.

If anything, from here on, whether India wins or loses a game, suspicion of betting will cast a long shadow.

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