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Why did they forget Asif?

TWO days have gone by since India's Central Bureau of Investigation released its report into match-fixing, time enough for every son of Beelzebub who calls himself a journalist to digest the 162 pages sufficiently well to know whose name is there and whose isn't. Of course, given the way it is written and the number of Ajays and Saxenas around, it may be difficult for anybody other an Indian to remember who is who!

But it is impossible for anyone who has read the report to miss the clear reference to Asif Iqbal's activities. Anil Steel, one of the bookmakers who was interviewed by the CBI, told the detectives that he had been introduced to the former Pakistan captain by one D.P. Javeri, a jeweller from Bombay, sometime in 1995. Steel and Iqbal are on "very friendly terms", the report states.

To cut a long story short let me quote from the report: "... when ever (sic) Asif Iqbal visits Bombay, he calls on Anil Steel and has on some occasions visited his residence along with his family. Asif Iqbal provides Anil Steel information about the pitch, weather, probable results, etc. in cricket matches throughout the world and Anil has also given some gifts of jewellery items etc. to Asif Iqbal and his family in return for this information. Anil Steel introduced Mukesh Kumar Gupta to Asif Iqbal in 1996 in Calcutta during the World Cup inaugural Ceremony."

There it is, in all its glory, in all its horrible prose. But so far, barring one website, no publication has even noticed the mention of the suave, slick Iqbal and the clear statement that he is one of those in the pay of bookies, one of those who hands out "information" for money, one of those who has prostituted the game for his own benefit.

Sharjah does not rate too much of a mention either though Dubai is mentioned. I wonder why. The betting that goes on in Sharjah has to be seen to be believed. Let us remember that the whole Sharjah phenomenon really took off only after India's World Cup win in 1983, an event which the CBI says was responsible for the increase in the number of one-day ties which the country played, the increased television coverage and consequently the boom in betting. After the other offshore venues - Toronto, Singapore et al - began their activities, Sharjah has taken a backseat.

An indication of the increase in the number of one-day matches that India played is provided in the profit made by the Board of (lack of) Control for Cricket in India; it leapt from 506,000 rupees (roughly $A 20,200) in 1987-88 to 83,700,000 rupees ($A3,448,000) in 1998-99. Guarantee money came in so fast that the board had plenty with which to play around. But it appears that the board's demand for guarantee money wasn't exactly in keeping with TV revenues from certain tournaments; it often undersold the Indian team. Why, is the big question.

Given the way that Hansie Cronje was caught, one would have thought that the time for statements bordering on the foolish was over. Such is not the case. The West Indies board chief, Pat Rousseau, has chosen to scorn the report. Rousseau, a lawyer, said it was a badly written report (and I agree with that), and could not be taken seriously; he gave it little credence. Just one example from his statements: he questioned why, when there had been reports about the mention of two West Indies players initially, only Brian Lara's name was found in the report. Of course, with all his legal skills, he did not notice that Gus Logie's name was mentioned; Manoj Prabhakar made an attempt to rope in Logie but the latter refused point-blank. To the best of my knowledge, Logie was a West Indies player; of course, I may be wrong, and Roussea may be right. I wouldn't hold my breath on that score, though.

Another point to note is that now there are going to be inquiries to prove that another inquiry was right or wrong. The International Cricket Conference could have saved a lot of time and mud-slinging by having an impartial inquiry conducted into the affairs of all players. It may have taken a year but after that there would have been no room for statements from buffoons. Of course, such a report would have put the ICC on the spot. And this august body is not exactly known for its ability to do anything other than prevaricate.

The CBI has done a fairly good job. Some big guns have gone unscathed, but then that is life. Only a brave man would have gone for the jugular in the case of a person like Kapil Dev. Sunil Gavaskar was never called to give evidence even though there a big sum of cash was found in one of his lockers in a club in Bombay. And the CBI did not ask M.K. Gupta anything about Shane Warne, though Warne admitted long ago that he had received money from an Indian bookmaker, whom he knew as John. It raises one point - are Gupta and John the same person?

However, the CBI also shows a surprising degree of naivety. There is no better way to highlight this than by quoting from the report: "There are clear signals that the underworld mafia has started taking interest in the betting racket and can be expected to take overall control of this activity, if not checked immediately with a firm hand." Now, if only that were true!

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