The travels, and travails, of Atanu Dutta
The arrest - for the third time this month - and subsequent incarceration of Indian bookie Atanu Dutta in Dhaka Central Jail has put the spotlight on a man who has been on the periphery of Bangladesh cricket for the past three-odd years. The immediate cause for his arrest was his presence during the World T20 matches in Chittagong and Dhaka but ESPNcricinfo has learned that Dutta's movements have been on the ACSU's radar since the 2010 tri-series in Zimbabwe that also involved India and Sri Lanka.
Dutta has been a regular at international and domestic matches held in Bangladesh, and has also followed the team in Zimbabwe (2011) and Sri Lanka (2013). He was present at venues like Harare and Hambantota where few, if any, Bangladeshi supporters turned up for their team's matches. He described himself as an "avid Bangladesh fan" and when asked his profession, he has given different versions, including one that describes him as a wanderer doing business in countries where Bangladesh plays.
This reporter has had several interactions with Dutta at various Bangladesh matches, beginning with the match at Harare Sports Club in 2011. He was seen regularly at the team hotel and at the ground. An unusual sight, given that there wasn't a single Bangladeshi who had come to meet the cricket team. It made Dutta the only Bengali-speaking individual in the hotel and the ground, apart from the Bangladesh squad, BCB officials and the journalists. He was usually the first to reach the ground, and could be spotted in the stands talking on the phone.
In Bulawayo, where he would be spotted outside the team hotel, his business card described him as a sales officer for a Kolkata-based company. It later emerged that he was among nine suspected bookies who were marked out by security agencies in Bangladesh ahead of the 2011 World Cup.
Eighteen months later, in January 2013, Dutta was spotted on the Khulna-Jessore bus and told this reporter he had come to Khulna after crossing over from India at the Benapole border post. He was there, he said, to watch BPL matches. At the Chittagong round of this domestic T20 tournament, he was a regular at the main pavilion building. He didn't miss a game and was nearly always sitting in the same area all the time. In conversations with this reporter, he said his business was now furniture and real estate; it was a mere coincidence, he said, that the BPL was on. Given his love of cricket, he said, he had to find his way to the grounds. He repeated one more thing: match-fixing, he believed, was slowly being removed from cricket.
Cut to March 2013, and Dutta was seen again, at a hotel in Sooriyawewa, 30km from Hambantota where Bangladesh were playing two ODIs against Sri Lanka. When asked what brought him there, his reply was brief: "Business," was all he said. He was dedicated to his work, however it was described. There were no more than 500 people who turned up at the Hambantota ground, a venue in the middle of nowhere and far from a very popular, accessible destination for cricket fans. Dutta was one of a smattering of spectators, seated in the main pavilion building.
The next meeting was in Fatullah in November 2013, during the Bangladesh-New Zealand ODIs. Dutta turned up in the press box - an almost-impossible task without proper accreditation. When asked how he had gained access, he smiled and said, "I know a lot of people in Bangladesh cricket." Over the last three years, he has popped up at matches in Bangladesh, an omnipresent, somewhat conspicuous non-Bangladeshi fan. The last time he was spotted was on March 21, the day of the India-Pakistan World T20 opener at in the domestic terminal at Dhaka airport.
Later that day, detectives caught up with him at the Shere Bangla National Stadium and made the first of three arrests within the three weeks. There is no saying where Dutta's many businesses will take him next.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84