May 3, 2001

This week last year: The Prabhakar - Kapil Dev painful saga

This week last year saw many a black day for Indian cricket. Manoj Prabhakar, along with Inderjit Singh Bindra, opened up a large can of worms - the matchfixing saga. About a year ago, Prabhakar, writing a column for Cricketnext.com said he had named the player who offered him money to underperform to a 'big gun' in the government. But Prabhakar refused to name him in a public forum. He also kept the name of the government official close to his chest. If Prabhakar thought he could keep things quiet for a while, he was soon forced to think again.

On CNN's Q & A programme, Bindra revealed that Prabhakar told him that Kapil Dev was the man he named. All hell broke loose in the media. The battle lines were drawn clearly, with allegations flying thick and fast. Prabhakar was boxed into a corner and hard-pressed to provide evidence of some kind. For every allegation there was a denial and a counter question, "what proof do you have?"

No proof was forthcoming.

Prashant Vaidya, former India fast bowler was in the room adjoining Kapil Dev's room. Naturally, Prabhakar turned to Vaidya for corroboration of the allegation that Kapil Dev offered him 25 lakhs to underperform in a one-day international. Vaidya, keen to stay out of the mess, pleaded ignorance. Although nothing conclusive emerged from the episode, bad vibes abounded.

On an interview given to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Kapil Dev broke down and wept bitterly when asked about the allegations of matchfixing. The interview made headlines in newspapers, magazines and websites alike, for all the wrong reasons. A section of the media rallied around the 'fallen icon' and questioned Prabhakar's motives. A rival section praised Prabhakar for his forthright attitude, asking if Kapil Dev's crying on national television was a carefully managed stunt.

Following the events and disclosures of that fateful week in May when the heat was really on, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was forced to set up commissions of inquiry, investigation panels and the like. With a bare minimum of international cricket happening, the matchfixing saga kept the media on its toes.

But the media were not alone. The Indian Government had a major role to play, with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Income Tax officials joining forces and conducting one of the most sensational investigations in Indian cricket history. When the CBI released the report on its findings, the BCCI acted swiftly. The verdict surprised many, and saddened more. Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma were banned from playing any cricket conducted under the aegis of the BCCI for life. Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar and former India physio Dr Ali Irani were to serve out five year bans.

Kapil Dev was exonerated of all charges of betting and matchfixing.

It all went very wrong for Manoj Prabhakar. From being the accuser, the tables were turned, and the former Delhi and India all-rounder was now the accused. Not just accused, but pronounced guilty as well.

Whether you're a fan of Kapil Dev or Prabhakar makes no difference at this moment in time. It hardly matters which side of the story you believe. Looking back one year later, one thing is clear. Indian cricket took some painful blows. There were several casualties, but was cricket really a winner at the end?

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