'BCCI should maintain better vigil'
Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, who played a key part in the arrest of the three Rajasthan Royals players, is an avid cricket fan. However, after pursuing the spot-fixing case, he admits he will not watch the IPL any more. That is one of the views Kumar shared in an interview with ESPNcricinfo.
Nearly a week after having taken the three players into custody, how strong do you think your case is against them?
It is quite solid. Our evidence material, it is substantial, and I am quite hopeful that we would be able to get convictions against the accused. The fact of the matter is they cannot deny what they have said on the telephone and they cannot deny the sequence of events. So in the face of the overwhelming evidence we have, they have no option but to accept (the charges).
There are also reports coming out that some more players might be involved from other teams. Is that true?
That is a distinct possibility provided we find the bookie we are looking for. We think through that bookie these other players might have been compromised.
A lot of legal pundits have said the absence of any specific law dealing with cheating in sport will help the accused walk free. Do you agree?
I do not think so. The management of Rajasthan Royals has come forward and given us the contracts signed by these three players. So we added an additional charge under the IPC Section 409 for criminal breach of trust. Anyone who goes to watch a match, he goes under the presumption everybody would play to full potential. The spectators otherwise feel cheated if that is not case. Two spectators from Delhi have come forward to lodge a complaint of being cheated. They had bought tickets online for the three matches we had listed being under the scanner. So these two would be our witnesses.
By charging the cricketers under Section 409, do you believe this is a way to set a precedent in terms of dealing with fraud in sport?
I guess in the future people will use this Section. We had originally filed the case under Sections 420 and 120(b) and the Royals complaint came subsequently, and has further strengthened our case.
Moving to a broader question: How can cricket be cleaned up?
From our point of view we should be able to get as many of these bookies as possible, as many of these middlemen behind bars, and identify players and go after them. That is all we can do. The general tendency in the police is to just restrict yourself to the case and wrap it up before moving on to the next case. But so many leads crop up during an investigation and our duty to follow those leads to the logical end. The rest of the things should be done by the administrators.
What is the role you expect the BCCI to play as the custodian of the sport in India?
I am not familiar with their working in terms of what they can and cannot do. But suffice to say that they should maintain better vigil. Most of this stuff happens quite openly: people are seen sitting with undesirable people and people do come to know about some strangers meeting somebody. So they have the list of the suspects, they should go after them.
In order to beef up its anti-corruption measures, can the BCCI work in collaboration with law enforcement authorities? Is that practical or possible?
Why not? If they tip us off, the police can keep them under surveillance. The BCCI's anti-corruption and security wing does not have police powers so to that extent they have to work within certain limitations.
The BCCI has instituted its own inquiry committee to establish match-fixing chargers against the three accused. Are you willing to share evidence with that panel?
At an appropriate time and with the prior permission of the court, we would be willing to share information with the committee.
Are you taking help of any former Test cricketers as part of investigations?
We are trying to get the services of an expert who will be our witness. He can explain to the court the various pros and cons of a certain field arrangement at a certain point during the match. For instance, there was an over [Ajit] Chandila bowled on May 5 in Jaipur and there is no fielder on the leg side, but he was pitching on the leg side. But my saying so will not hold much weight in the court of law. However, if a former player who is nominated by the BCCI or government comes forward and is willing to be a witness, it will enhance our case. We are talking to the BCCI, but I would not like to take any names till it is finalised.
Can cricket ever be corruption free?
It would not be fair to say corruption is a rule and honesty an exception. There are a few rotten eggs, which should be spotted and be weeded out. I am a cricket fan, too. I was distressed and anguished when I announced the arrest of the three players. But I have stopped watching IPL this year. I have lost interest.
Did you have any similar information of such stuff happening in the previous editions of the IPL?
We used to hear, but that was in the realm of rumour.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo