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|May 23, 2000||
The Rediff Interview/ Mark Mascarenhas
'The prejudice of the white man against the Asian is staggering'
So whom are you going to be suing besides Aggarwal? Are you also going to follow Mr Dalmiya and sue the publications?
Aggarwal is first. The publications which published and continue to publish Aggarwal without checking with me or without even bothering to ask a question. And then, finally, there are some people who have made some very damaging and libelous statements who will be taken to task.
Who are these people?
Like I S Bindra.
What has he said that has upset you so much?
Maybe you haven't been reading lately. The matter is sub judice so I do not wish to comment on it.
Don't you think that too much cricket, influenced by television companies and sports telecast firms, is responsible for the current crisis? Are the players, out of boredom, looking to make a fast buck by involving in match-fixing?
There is a huge appetite for cricket in India. Indians like to watch cricket; they love their team playing. That's the reason cricket is happening more and more. Why is no hockey happening?
No! People are not interested in watching hockey. People want to watch cricket; television companies want cricket. There is money to be made. The Board engages in playing. That's the whole cycle.
There are several reasons like excess cricket, offshore venues etc. But I disagree with them. I believe that as long as there are crooked players and there is a bookie ring, which exists, match-fixing will continue.
It doesn't matter when, how, where, at all. We have clear evidence of that as well. It did not happen at some off-shore venture like Sharjah. It happened in our own yard. In the middle of our own capital. And all throughout India, and that is disgraceful.
So you believe match-fixing happens?
(Laughs) Isn't it evident from the tapes?
Within the Indian team also?
I don't know. You can't accuse anyone without evidence, but you know a lot of companies and a lot of investigators have come forward with various theories and the Board came forward with a statement saying there is an investigative agency now behind this. I hope they rectify it and I hope they clean the system. There are millions of people who want to see cricket. There's nothing like watching an Indian team going out there and winning. And people like Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly doing well. There's nothing better than that.
Do you believe cricket will lose its charm after this scandal?
Cricket needs to restore itself. There has been damage. There has been a serious dent. It's a tragedy. But you know the Delhi police investigation was a blessing, otherwise it would have gone on without anyone of us knowing.
What should be done to clean up the game?
You have to look at what happens in other parts of the world. In America, where professional sport is at its ultimate; where television deals alone for the national football league in America are valued at $ 2 billion per year. So, that's a television deal which is worth Rs 10,000 crore. Then you got merchandising and then gate proceeds. So the leagues there run a very good control system. In America there are two problems which they monitor and keep a watch on.
One is drugs and the other is gambling. Just recently one of the Yankee stars was banned because an undercover agent offering him cocaine, caught him. National investigative agencies in each country should keep a watch. There are two elements. Potentially crooked players and a bookie ring. And that's where it is at.
How do you think tournaments at off-shore venues globalises the game? Besides, the television rights, what are the other factors influencing it?
The idea was, of which Bindra was a part of this in 1995, that we would bring Indian, Pakistan and West Indian teams to the New York area. There are a million people in the tri-state area who come from cricketing countries and families. And you bring star players there to build interest in the game. And build interest in those communities. And once that happened then younger people would take up the game and that would help the sport immensely.
They haven't come to America; they went to Toronto. It became more of a television rights thing and a moneymaking experience. You need to reach out there. I think the only incredible experience that I have seen is Dhaka. It is phenomenal. The impact of taking big cricket there has done wonders for the game.
Do you think cricket can be globalised this way?
No! Cricket can be globalised. It's a good game and a popular game. It needs to be structured differently. I think you need to reduce the number of overs to 35. You have to start playing more.
You should get businessmen like me who like the game to come in and invest in United States cricket. Last year we did a tournament in Los Angeles. It cost me $ 400,000 but everyone seemed to feel I was making a fortune. I invested in it because I wanted to see cricket built and I was told by the Australian board that before I got the national team, if I took the B team then I would be able to take out all the things. We learnt a few things and we realised we don't have any good pitches in America. The LA wicket was a disaster and I must commend the Indian guys who played there -- and there were quite a few good cricketers there. Mohammad Kaif stood up to Brett Lee on a pitch which had uneven bounce.
Why is it that every time Mr Dalmiya speaks of globalising the sport it lands up in Dhaka? Why only Dhaka?
That's not true. Dhaka was a Test centre. Dhaka was East Pakistan, remember. People were playing cricket there. Dhaka is East Bengal. Dhaka is going to become a Test nation now. Hopefully in July Bangladesh will get Test status. So I don't see Dhaka as an off-shore centre. Toronto, I can agree, but not Dhaka.
Look at Sharjah again. It has a huge amount of Indians and Pakistanis playing cricket. The Indian and the Pakis outnumber the Arabs by some phenomenal number. Globalisation, the issue which Dalmiya has taken up, needs to be backed up with a stronger plan. You need to be able to trade players, get players. If I want to build a team in the United States I should be able to take some players from Australia, and India.
That's where globalization will come into play. But you need big teams to play, you need big players.
I just don't think that globalization went the next step that was needed. Now with the new fiasco and this mudslinging that's taken place between certain members of the Board it is too tragic.
You are not advancing the cause of cricket. The ICC was supposed to meet on May 2 on the basis of the Hansie Cronje case and the match-fixing scandal instead of setting policies for furthering the game.
Then suddenly the whole of England switched to alleged corruption of the ICC president. Now no one is talking about match-fixing anymore.
Do you think corruption starts from the top?
I am prepared to vouch that Jagmohan Dalmiya is a man of integrity and do not believe any of the allegations. He is a wealthy man and he does not need any money. He has absolutely no interest and he is dead clean.
But can the argument that he is a rich man be used as a parameter to declare him innocent? Even Hansie Cronje is a rich man.
Different types mate! One is a born-again Christian and the other is a Marwari. (laughs)
Do you have any business association with Dalmiya?
My dealings with Jagmohan Dalmiya have purely been on cricket. I have nothing else absolutely whatsoever with him. And anytime I have got anything from him, it's on record and it's on the basis of merit. I have never got anything -- like my competitors have had the benefit from the other Board members or former Board presidents. The record is clear.
Is it true you were instrumental in getting the ban on Shoaib Akhtar lifted, since he happens to be associated with WorldTel? What role did you play in getting Shoaib reinstated into international cricket?
I did not speak to Jagmohan Dalmiya about it. I did, however, speak to members of the committee. I spoke to the only member of the committee, the only classified bowler present during the time of the decision. And that was Michael Holding. My decisions are based on experts who work for me as commentators.
I don't go to politicians for judgements on cricket. I go to Ian Chappell, Michael Holding, Ravi Shastri or Sunil Gavaskar. The evidence was that they filmed selective deliveries of his. They made their judgement on the basis of selective deliveries. They did not take a half-hour or hour tape of him and judge him. There were only two or three deliveries in that which were suspect. And the feeling was, you could back that up with Imran Khan and Michael Holding, that Akhtar should have been given that chance to correct that.
Then, based on the fact whether he was able to correct it or not, be dealt with. Imran went further in his pieces, which were published on our website, about the laws being changed. The ICC has done nothing about ball tampering. This was an issue, which Imran spoke about in 1994. They still haven't done anything about it.
The reason why he was reinstated was because he was banned on very flimsy evidence and he was not given the proper forum. The timing of the reinstatement was not my decision. I had nothing to do with it.
Besides Holding, there were other respected cricketers like Bobby Simpson on the panel. Does their view not count?
Bobby Simpson? He is not a fast bowler. Who else? He's played cricket for so many years, fine! Who else? John Reid. Have you seen Reid as a match referee at matches? I have seen him so many times. Should John Reid be on a bowling committee? Or should you have Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Dennis Lillee? C'mon! How can Ranjan Madugalle be on a bowling committee or even a match referee?
The man who was pulling up Venkatesh Prasad for behaviour, yet when Glenn McGrath looked, glared and spoke to Tendulkar he got away with nothing. What are these double standards? Racism is rampant in cricket.
Why do you say that?
The prejudice of the white man against the Asian is staggering. Do you know that at the recent ICC bundling of rights, we were number four? We were not allowed to participate in the final round. When I asked, the inside answers I got from someone who was closely involved in the game in Australia and in England were shocking.
He said: 'Mate, the South Africans said they would not have you, an Indian at any cost, doing a World Cup in their country.' Other remarks, made by senior members of the English cricket board, about the games being in the hands of the Asians and waiting for the next president, Malcolm Gray, so that the game could return to its rightful masters. It's disgraceful!
PART II: 'Cricket doesn't need a policeman; it needs someone who feels inside for every player'
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