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|December 24, 1998||
The Rediff Interview / Manoj Prabhakar
'I will reveal the names to the CBI!'
After being widely abused and blackballed for revealing how he was offered a Rs 2.5 million bribe by a team-mate to play badly in the Indo-Pak match during the 1994 Singer Cup, the bad boy of Indian cricket, Manoj Prabhakar now stands vindicated!
A journalist confessed last week that he had overheard the entire conversation from the next room. In the wake of confessions by Mark Waugh and Shane Warne that they took money from bookies, it is suddenly open season for charges of match fixing.
Prabhakar tells Pritish Nandy how he has been living under the shadow of death for daring to speak out against the impossibly powerful cricket mafia.
Now that you have been vindicated by the fact that an independent journalist from Eenaadu has suddenly come out of the closet and revealed the fact to the media that he had overheard your entire conversation from the next room, when you were offered a Rs 2.5 million bribe by a team-mate of yours to play badly during the Indo-Pak match in the 1994 Singer Cup in Colombo, do you feel that your credibility and honour has been restored?
I tried my very best even at that point of time. I went to all the concerned people, but they were just not bothered. Then I came to know that they were also involved in it. That's why I am out of cricket. Otherwise, I could have played for three or four more years.
That is the main reason why I find myself out in the cold -- the fact that I came to know that these people were all involved in a big way. That got me into so much trouble!
When did you first suspect that there was so much of bribery and match-fixing going on?
When we were in Sri Lanka in 1994. A person came to me at a party, someone very senior in the Indian cricket team, and said it in a very roundabout way, as if he was joking with me. I replied: 'Sir, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others.' Sitting next to me was one of India's finest and most honest cricketers. He said: 'But some of them live in bullet proof glass houses!'
Everybody knew who was doing what and why. But they got angry when I exposed it.
Why was there this conspiracy of silence after you broke the story?
Because I could not prove it. Tell me, how can I prove such a thing until and unless there is someone ready to stand beside me? I was alone when I raised this. Everybody was blaming me. Some people said: Look, what you have done is not good for our country, our cricket! So many people criticised me for it. Now I hope they will realise what has been going on for so long.
Do you think all the evidence will come out now?
Some people have all the evidence. That is why they are sticking to their story. What Rashid Latif said is not false. He said it on record. He named so many people. You can't mention each and every guy's name.
People like Azhar, Jadeja, Sidhu? Latif called Kapil Dev the biggest gambler of them all? What do you think is the extent of the malaise?
Someone will get killed one day! I will tell you why. What happens nowadays is that a player like Sachin Tendulkar can win a match on his own. You cannot stop him, whatever you may do. So what happens to these three or four people who are involved (in match fixing)? It is not their fault (that the match moves in a different direction, despite their concerted efforts). At the same time, think of the people who are putting in so much money. They can kill them.
Look, everyone is not involved. Those who bat down the order are not involved. They do not even know what is going on. If the bookie who has lost a package on the match insists that these three or four people again try a repeat performance in the next match and they refuse, it can be very dangerous for them. Because the chap has already lost a huge packet of money in the earlier match and he has to recover it somehow and pay off his dues. He has no choice. This is a very bad game now.
And you think this is very largely because of Indian bookies?
No, Indian and Pakistani bookies. They can do anything. My life was twice under threat. Even my family was under threat.
Believe me, sir, I still live in constant fear of being killed by those whom I have exposed and even those who fear that I will expose them one day. They will not let me go easily.
But how did it happen? How did it first happen?
Someone came and put a gun to my neck. That was the first time, in July or August 1997, just after I had written my column and I had said: If the time comes, I will also take the name (of the person who had tried to bribe me). Someone stopped me on the road near my house and I thought he wanted to ask me the way. Then suddenly this big hand came from nowhere and pushed my face away. I could feel the gun against my neck. He also pushed the mirror away. I could not see his face but he told me clearly: First it was your career; now your life is at stake! If you even attempt to turn around, he warned me, I will shoot you! I was so scared, I drove away without looking back. I reported it to the police, of course, but nothing much came out of it, frankly.
Then they came and threatened my family. This time, I got security for two weeks. That's when I realised that one shouldn't say anything. Just keep quiet. Nobody is going to save you.
Any more threats?
Yes, immediately after a television interview I gave. Someone came and threatened to force his way up to my flat. My chowkidar resisted and was beaten up. By that time a crowd had collected from the locality and the chap fled.
The same night, someone tried to drive over my chowkidar. The police guard given to me told the chowkidar: Look, I am going. If you want to die, you can stay here…
Did you report this to the Chandrachud commission?
He asked me nothing. He did not even ask me to name the guy who offered me the bribe! Now he says I did not tell him the name. My lawyer was sitting there all through. When we came out of the room, he looked at me and I looked at him. He told me: Are you thinking the same thing that I am thinking? Yeah, I said, he never asked me the real question.
I have asked for the report, but they have not sent it to me and yet they have filed a case against me. They say the report is totally confidential and only for the eyes of the President of the Cricket Control Board of India. We cannot give it to anybody, they say. They have stopped my benevolent fund also.
Why don't you name the guy who offered you the bribe and face the consequences?
Sir, I want the CBI to take this case over. I am ready to give them all the facts. I will reveal all the names involved in this racket, all the names. There is huge money changing hands every time a match is won or lost. The Government cannot turn a blind eye to it. They should get to the bottom of it.
They should, in fact, take over these private cricket bodies and use the huge money at their disposal to promote sports in India. All sports -- not just cricket. It will do wonders for Indian sports. If they remain disinterested, it will only harm the game, and our reputation, worldwide.
Mail Prem Panicker
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