Home > Cricket > Special
The Rediff Special/Faisal Shariff
Kale case: More questions than answers
June 09, 2004
The Abhijit Kale bribery case that rocked Indian cricket last November has been laid to rest. But the jury is still out on whether Kale was let off too easily.
Kamal Morarka, vice-president, Board of Control for Cricket in India, dismissed the charge that the BCCI had reached an understanding with Kale.
Morarka, one of the three members of the BCCI disciplinary committee, told rediff.com that banning Kale until December 31, 2004, was a fair decision. The Board, he said, could not take a sterner view simply because there was no evidence of the offer of a bribe by the Maharashtra cricketer.
"There is not a single person other than [selectors] Kiran More and Pranab Roy themselves who are witness to the bribe offer made by Kale," Morarka said. "How can you hang a man if there is no evidence against him?"
The BCCI vice-president pointed out that there is little anyone can do when it is one man's word against another's. "They both, in a way, cancel each other."
Discussing the case, Morarka explained that there were two main charges against Kale; the first was of pressurising the selectors and the second was of attempted bribery.
"The first one is certain with the number of calls Kale made to the two selectors," the former Union minister said. "It is a little difficult to believe that he was informing them about his fitness so many times. If that was the case, why didn't he inform the other three selectors?
"Second," he continued, "is the bribery allegation; where is the proof? The selectors cannot produce any evidence to prove it."
Morarka said he challenged the selectors when they said they were being pressurised by Kale. "Why are you getting pressurised? It is normal at times for a player to come up to a selector and plead his case. Yes, Kale went overboard, but that's all that can be proved.
"What I find most amazing is that the selectors picked Kale for a side game against New Zealand even after he had allegedly offered them money to pick him in the side," he said.
The Subba Rao Committee's report has recorded More's statement that Kale made phone calls to him in June and July last year, offering him Rs 10 lakh (Rs 1 million; approximately $21,900) for a place in the Indian side. Two months later, on September 21, the selectors picked Kale in the India 'A' team to play the visiting Kiwis in a three-day encounter in Rajkot.
When the BCCI asked the two selectors about this decision, More and Roy claimed that they did not want to damage Kale's career.
So what prompted them to wreck it two months later by reporting the matter to the BCCI is a question that screams for an answer.
On the flip side, a senior BCCI official, who refused to go on record, said he was surprised that throughout the controversy, Kale did not once accuse the selectors of demanding money.
Morarka said Kale displayed a great deal of naivete in his handling of the matter. "If you read the two affidavits filed by More and Roy, you will laugh," he said frankly. "Nowhere do More's wife or Roy's friend mention that Kale offered a bribe.
"More's wife said Kale's mother came home, cried, and said that Kale will commit suicide if he is not given a chance to play for the country; Roy's friend Rajiv Gupta also said he met Kale at the airport, but did not hear their conversation."
According to Morarka, when Gupta asked Roy why he was agitated after his talk with Kale, Roy replied that the cricketer was 'misbehaving' with him, but did not explain.
"Had Kale accepted both affidavits and said he is sorry for his mother's visit to More's house, explained it as a mother's desperation to see her son play for India, there would have been no case!" Morarka said. "The hearing would have ended there and he would have been let off.
"We all know that it is a crime under the penal code to offer bribes, but do principals who are offered bribes by parents call the CBI and have them arrested?" he asked.
Morarka said Kale's apology letter had made things easier for the Board to call an end to the controversy. He, however, said Kale had lied to the disciplinary committee when he claimed he would never have been able to pay Rs 10 lakh to the selectors because of his humble background.
"Percept D'Mark signed a contract with him, [Punjab all-rounder] Reetinder Singh Sodhi, and [Mumbai opening batsman] Wasim Jaffer last year with a clause that said if he did not play within a year for India or India 'A' the company would not be bound to pay him his money," Morarka claimed.
"Isn't this incentive detrimental for sport?" he said. "Companies want to sell their drinks and shoes, but agents should be careful about pushing players into this kind of situations."
As a fallout of this incident, Morarka now believes there is a need for a code of conduct for selectors.
The Abhijit Kale Scandal: Complete coverage