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June 2, 1997


'I was offered Rs 2.5 million to sabotage a match!'

The text of a signed statement released by Manoj Prabhakar, the former India all-rounder, to the latest issue of the newsweekly Outlook.

'When I was first exposed to international cricket in 1984 I was a simpleton. I was glamour-struck, and before I realised I was sucked into the dirty game of groupism. And since I was a novice, I got a raw deal. The west group thought I was part of the north group, and vice versa. My surname, Prabhakar, also added to the confusion.

The result: I ended up playing a lot less cricket than I actually deserved or wanted to. But now, the gentleman's game has undergone a sea change, and has caved in to the pressure of money power.

During the 1987 World Cup, rumours were rife about the team's performance but sometimes, it seemed so obvious that it had me wondering. I also distinctly remember that match at Sharjah in 1991 when I was at the crease with Sanjay Manjrekar, when we decided to walk off because of fading light. To our surprise, we received a signal from the team management to play on. This decision still baffles and angers me.

Unfortunately, in situations where money deals are made in the dark and no proof is available, we can only shake our heads in disbelief.

I noticed that such dealings seem to be manipulated right from the top and players, who had reached the pinnacle, did not seem to be doing the right thing at crucial times.

Somewhere in the same period, I was also approached by certain quarters to perform below par in a certain match. Before the India-Pakistan match in Sri Lanka for the Singer Cup in 1994, I was offered Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million) by an Indian team member for sabotaging the match in Pakistan's favour. I was told to play below my usual standards. I told him to get out of my room. I told him that I would never do what he was telling me to do.

Because of this, I soon acquired the tag of a spoilsport in that group.

This did not stop the offers, though, which flowed in regularly. There are times that things are so obvious, that the entire nation has watched it happen. In Kanpur, when we were chasing the West Indies score, Mongia came in to bat and conveyed the management's instructions that we were to try and get as close to the target. The resultant hullaballoo about my going slow should be directed at the team management and not at me, as I was doing so under their instructions. Of the 48 balls in that period, I played just 11. I scored nine off those 11 balls. In fact, due to someone else's fault, I was dropped and humiliated.

Commercialisation of cricket has changed its face -- it is no longer just a game, it is a game where money is the main motivator. Sponsors and bookies have started exerting pressure, and games are now increasingly fixed. I remember the incident at Sharjah when Aamir Sohail and Azhar both went out to toss and came back both claiming the other had won it. I feel that the day is not far off when, if the Board is not vigilant, a major scandal might erupt.

The benefit of commercialisation which should filter down to the players is not happening. The market-savvy Board is filling its coffers at the expense of the eleven sweating it out on the field, and leading luxurious lifestyles.

Sometimes, when it is in a benevolent mood, it does dole out charity but the cream is going elsewhere. I am sure a change of heart is needed at the top. Even so-called charity matches are not proving beneficial to society.

The menace of money power should be checked before it corrupts the minds of cricketers. There must be a concerted effort to filter the bookies out of the system. This needs to be done. Otherwise, the Indian public will keep watching the scenes enacted, in bafflement and rage.'