April 21, 2000

Chandrachud report dismissed as `old hat'

Three years ago, when former Indian cricketer Manoj Prabhakar made his sensational disclosures that a teammate had offered him money to throw a match in Sri Lanka in 1994, there were mixed reactions in cricket circles in the country. There were those who saw Prabhakar as someone out to gain some cheap publicity. But there were others who felt that his charges should be probed. By this time there was some talk of match fixing, notably in neighbouring Pakistan and a section of the Indian public felt that it was time to check if the disease had spread to India as well.

After much deliberation, the Board of Control for Cricket in India appointed a one man commission to be headed by Justice Chandrachud. The former chief justice took his time while interviewing dozens of players, administrators and journalists and at the end of a rather time consuming process, exonerated all Indian players and officials saying charges of match fixing lacked substance.

To many, the findings of the report were not at all satisfactory. The report, which included statements of past and present cricketers, officials of the BCCI, former team managers and journalists seemed to be one sided. The abridged version indeed came as a damp squib. It was certainly anti climactic for those who were convinced that Indian players were involved in match fixing. The report also was a major disappointment for Prabhakar. There seemed to be no objective assessment of the man whose allegations led to the probe.

But what was released was only a synopsis. No one knew what the full report was all about. And for three years, the report remained under wraps and forgotten. The events of the past week or so however changed the whole scenario. There was a clamour to make the Chandrachud report public particularly with the names of some Indian players figuring in match fixing allegations.

With the match fixing scandal reaching Government level and with agitated politicians cutting across party lines demanding that the report be made public, Sports Minister SS Dhindsa asked BCCI officials to make the report public. Under pressure, the BCCI relented and the full report was tabled in Parliament on Thursday. The contents proved to be anti climactic. Some of the main points were already known and with there being no `sensational' disclosures, cricket circles dismissed the report as `old hat.'

Besides the main points which were already known, the report says that ``the possibility that some Indian players may be laying the flutter of a bet cannot be ruled out.'' Chandrachud however hastens to add that it is less than just to conclude that they lay bets for losing a match. ``Such a charge lacks substance and is unjustified.'' Admitting that there was large scale betting on cricket, Chandrachud dismisses it as ``a human weakness like drinking and a law and order problem.''

Among those whom he interviewed, the longest meeting was apparently with Prabhakar who set the ball rolling in the first place with his sensational allegations. Chandrachud has summarily dismissed the former Indian cricketer's arguments. ``I have no hesitation in rejecting the allegations made by Manoj Prabhakar. They are imaginary and unrealistic.'' If it was any comfort for Prabhakar, Chandrachud also dismisses the contention of former captain and current coach Kapil Dev, former DDCA secretary Sunil Dev and some journalists who also agreed that match fixing was possible.

Coming down heavily on Prabhakar, Chandrachud dismisses his charges. The report rejects point by point Prabhakar's allegations variously calling them `concocted', `vague,' and `unfounded.'

There seems to be little objective assessment. It would appear that Chandrachud believed those who say that match fixing does not happen. On the other hand, he does not seem to believe those who say it does happen.

Chandrachud apparently took the statements of players like M Azharuddin, Nayan Mongia and Ajay Jadeja at face value. They all denied that a match could be fixed. ``I accept without hesitation the statements of Sachin Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Mongia, Jadeja, Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Chandu Borde, Sandeep Patil, DV Subba Rao, Ali Irani, R Mohan, SK Shyam and Pradeep Vijayakar,'' who all apparently told the judge that match fixing could not take place.

Tendulkar, who was the Indian captain when the Chandrachud report was being compiled told the judge: ``I do not believe that matches are fixed or can be fixed. I never got the feeling any of my teammates deliberately played a bad shot to get out.''

The government however seems determined to get to the `bottom of the truth' and Sports Minister SS Dhindsa has gone on record that it would spare no effort in the matter. He has called for a meeting with players and officials at New Delhi on April 27. But the mood in Indian cricket circles remains sceptical. Already the much hyped meeting between the ICC President Jagmohan Dalmiya and the BCCI officials at Calcutta on April 18 did not yield anything tangible. Now the Chandrachud report has turned out to be a damp squib. Perhaps it would be more realistic to expect something of substance from the ICC meeting at Lord's on May 2 and 3. In the meantime, the charges continue to fly thick and fast across the air, adding to the prevailing confusing scenario.