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Following revelations yesterday by the Nagpur police that West Indian allrounder Marlon Samuels had passed on team information on the eve of the Nagpur ODI on January 21 to Mukesh Kochar, an alleged bookie, the ICC on Friday decided to send a special team to the city to investigate the matter.
The ICC team, mainly comprising Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) officials, will be in Nagpur by Monday and will have detailed discussions with the police. They will also interact with the staff of the hotel where the West Indian cricketers were put up.
The ACU's representative, Niranjan Virk, will in any case be in Rajkot for the match. "He will be here tomorrow and will coordinate with the local police," said Rajkot's police commissioner K Nityanandan. "After what had happened at Nagpur we have kept a strict vigilance on these betting activities and will continue to do so during the match here. We know who are all involved in these betting activities in Saurashtra region and we are keeping them under watch."
India had beaten the West Indies by 14 runs in the Nagpur match, the first game of the four-match series which India went on to win 3-1. Samuels conceded 53 runs in his allotted 10 overs of the game and followed it up with a 60-ball 40 during the run-chase.
It's standard practice for the police to monitor the activities of known bookies prior to games at international venues. Repeated calls from Kochar specifically to room 206 of the Pride Hotel had made the Nagpur police suspicious. They subsequently taped four telephonic conversations between Samuels and Kochar.
The ACU team will submit its report to the ICC which would then recommend to the West Indies board what action could be taken against the player.
The significant developments in the story so far:
The police story
Samuels had specifically told Kochar over the phone at 11.30 pm on January 20 that he would bowl first change the next day - which is what actually happened. What also apparently strengthened the police's suspicion was that Samuels chose to stay on in Mumbai - ostensibly to take part in a cricket reality show - when his team left for the West Indies after the series ended. "After the West Indies team's departure, he stayed back for a few days in Mumbai. Maybe they (Samuels and Kochar) were in contact during that time," SPS Yadav, Nagpur's police commissioner said.
The police clarified that they had "no evidence about financial commitment made", or of match fixing, but that there were "enough indications of betting" and that prima facie it is a violation of the ICC Code of Conduct for players. They also confirmed that no other West Indian player was involved.
According to a Times of India report Samuels actually laughed when told the Nagpur police had recorded his conversations with Kochar. "I don't think he's a bookie. I usually talk about cricket but don't give out any such information." He then added: "I don't do such things man. I have not done anything wrong. The West Indies Cricketers' Association will take up the matter if necessary."
The West Indies board waits and watches
The West Indies Cricket Board has said it had not received any communication yet from the BCCI or ICC on the allegations and has said it was "not going to act on rumour or gossip." Tony Deyal, the WICB spokesman, was quoted in agency reports as saying the board would take necessary action only after getting a formal report. "We have not been officially contacted by the BCCI or ICC. However, we are not going to act on rumour or gossip and will not be panicked, particularly since we are talking about the career and future of a young cricketer of talent and promise," Deyal was quoted as saying. "We have a zero-tolerance policy on gambling and we strictly adhere to the ICC codes," he added.
Kochar claimed that he was a friend and father figure to Samuels. "I have done nothing wrong," Kochar told Times Now, a television news channel, from Dubai. "I was only trying to encourage him to play better. I'm a born sportsman. And yes, who doesn't bet on cricket? And who doesn't know the name of Dawood Ibrahim [the former Mumbai underworld don and one of India's most wanted persons]? But I don't know him at all." Kochar added that he was fully willing to cooperate with the investigation. "If they [ICC] contact me, I will be the first person to help them out," he told the channel. "I am willing to visit them whenever. My heart is clear."
No Indian player involved
Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, said the matter was now the responsibility of the ICC. "We have received a communication from the police commissioner of Nagpur and we have sent this immediately to the ICC headquarters in Dubai," Pawar told PTI in New Delhi. "It is now for the ICC to take appropriate action."
Rajiv Shukla, the BCCI vice-president, said that "the BCCI will cooperate in the investigations. Since it is involving a foreign player, it is a very sensitive issue and needs to be handled carefully." "At the moment no Indian player is involved and we can take action only if an Indian player is involved," BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah added.
Robin Singh, the former allrounder, expressed surprise over his name being reportedly mentioned in the conversation between Samuels and Kochar. "This is the first time I am hearing all this", Singh told reporters, adding "I've just come back from government assignment from Cuba".
Asked if he had anything to say on his name reportedly mentioned in the conversation, Singh shot back: "Absolutely nothing. I don't know what you are talking about".
Lara stands by Samuels
The West Indies captain said he had not been able to contact Samuels yet but wanted him to know that he had the full support of the entire team. "I have been unable to contact the WICB or more importantly Marlon Samuels as the report emerged while I was in London overnight," Lara was quoted as saying by NDTV. "Ultimately I would like to speak to Marlon to let him know that he has the full support of myself and the other players. He needs to stay focussed on the things he can control. We have a World Cup to win," he said.
Mother backs Marlon
Samuels's mother Daphne Lunan told The Jamaica Observer that she didn't believe her son was involved in any wrongdoing. The mother of eight said she has been in shock ever since another of her sons, David, told her he heard the report on radio yesterday. "I was so shocked to hear that; right now I'm feeling so nervous because I don't believe Marlon mix up into those things." She also claimed that her son and Kochar had been friends for a long time. "All when he is not playing match he [Kochar] call him because the last time with his [Samuels's] foot (injury) he called and said he is a good player, he must continue, that's it." Lunan added that she herself had spoken to Kochar on several occasions.