The dark side of cricket June 12, 2005

Mehta had links with Test players, say police

Cricinfo staff

Azharuddin played his 99th and final Test in March 2000 © Getty Images

The crime branch of the Ahmedabad police has revealed that Shobhan Mehta, allegedly a Mumbai-based bookie, had told them that he knew several former international cricketers, including Mohammad Azharuddin, Nayan Mongia, Ajay Jadeja, Mark Waugh and Hansie Cronje. DG Vanjara, the Additional Police Commissioner, also said that Mehta admitted he had no links with players currently representing India.

The alleged disclosure from Mehta was met with an angry response from Azharuddin. Speaking to The Hindu from Amsterdam, Azharuddin, who led India in 47 Tests, said: "This is absolutely rubbish. I have never met this man [Mehta]. It is not fair to make such allegations and tarnish my image. I am being made a scapegoat by all and sundry. It is highly irresponsible of this man to make such allegations and it is sad that I'm being singled out in such a manner."

Mongia too denied any association with Mehta, saying that he had had no conversations with him, let alone pass on any information. Saying that the CBI inquiry had cleared his name, Mongia added: "The first time I saw this man was when he was shown on television a few days ago. I don't know on what basis he has made these allegations when the CBI and BCCI have given me a clean chit. Such a statement should not be entertained because it's a matter of my image."

Vanjara also dismissed rumours that Sachin Tendulkar's name also cropped during the investigations. "Mehta had links with several players," Vanjara told Sunday Times. "But as far as Sachin is concerned we do not have any information."

Tendulkar himself was livid at his name being dragged into the controversy. "It is ridiculous," he told the daily. "I just don't know who this guy is. I have never met him. It's happened before when there was news of him claiming to have attended my marriage, which is totally untrue. Time and again these things are cropping up and I have absolutely no clue who is bringing up these things. This just can't go on. It needs to end."

According to Vanjara, Mehta had allegedly begun his journey to cricket's dark side as long ago as 1992, with himself and his associates regularly visiting the players - even inside dressing-rooms - to siphon information on the conditions, team composition, strategy and the toss. The police also claimed that Mehta had admitted to his links with an Australian who was allegedly involved, Mark Peter, and also one from England going by the code-name Black 0365.

Mehta had also allegedly confessed to running a network that encompassed Pakistan, Australia and England, in addition to the major cricketing centres in India. Vanjara said Mehta had not named any of the present players -- national or overseas -- as being involved with him. Mehta, who was out on bail after being arrested last month on charges of gambling and cheating, was again arrested in a Mumbai hospital on June 9.

Waugh and Jadeja have yet to comment on the revelations.