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December 16, 2000

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The Cricket Interview/ Kamal Morarka

'Can a cricketer sell the country?'

Part I:
'There was irrational exuberance to punish the cricketers'

Part II:
'Is the CBI director saying that all those working for the CBI are lily white?'

Part IV:
'The BCCI is not somebody's monopoly'

Senior Cricket Correspondent Faisal Shariff's interview with BCCI vice-president Kamal Morarka continues.

Has the BCCI written to the CBI?

Where? You know the answer to the question.

Why doesn't the BCCI do it?

Now what? The committee has met and sentenced the players. Now the matter is over. This should have been done before giving the sentence. This would have taken time, I know.

What happens now?

Mr Muthiah The ball is in the players's court. Mr Muthiah had said the players can appeal to the Board. I don't know what is that procedure. I will have to read the constitution. The player wants to appeal to the Board; the Board can consider what to do. I don't know.

You called the CBI report a prostitute's diary.

I said the CBI report is based almost entirely on statements and documents from bookies. A bookie's diary is like a prostitute's diary. You will find the names of all the rich and famous in a prostitute's diary; you will not find the names of slum dwellers. So you can't raid a prostitute's den and then go to the rich and famous and tell them, 'Why does your name figure in the diary?'

First of all, the CBI has given a list of these bookies. I don't think this is a good practice. Why are you publicising these bookies? Are you trying to give them better business, or what? Who are these people? Either you take action against them or you break their gambling dens. But no, you are giving credit to them. This fellow said so and so. And who's on the other side? People who have done something for the country.

I am an old fashioned man. I will have to think twice before I believe a prostitute and a person of standing. There has to be a difference. That's all I said.

What about Mr Madhavan's appointment as the BCCI's investigator?

Madhavan has not been appointed for this case; he has been appointed as commissioner by the BCCI on the lines of England and other boards, to investigate any malpractice.

He was appointed by the BCCI. Don't you trust your own investigator?

But there is a slight gap there, and the gap is this: Normally, a case like this... we will give it to Madhavan to inquire. Now, in this case, the CBI has already investigated; so we took the CBI report and gave it to Madhavan, which we need not have given.

So you think Madhavan should have run an independent enquiry.

No. The inquiry is over; action is to be taken. Either the CBI takes it or we take it. If we take it, then we sit like a three-member committee would sit in a judicious mode. I repeat that because if three people are sitting to give a sentence then they must hear both sides before giving a decision. Because if any of the three of us is already biased, then we should not sit on that committee. I can speak for myself, I don't know these players; I am not biased; I don't know any bookies.

So, I will just see the papers in front of me. I will not see what Faisal Shariff has written. And then decide what to do today. Faisal Shariff is an independent pressman. He has the right to write what he wants to write. I must take the decision with the evidence in front of me. If that evidence does not tally, then I must stick to the logical conclusion. Now Azharuddin is denying that I have ever admitted before the CBI.

When I met him in Hyderabad, he said 'they asked the questions and they answered.'

So I would write to the CBI saying, 'Please let me have the signed statement of Azharuddin'.

Will you tell the Board to do that?

Faisal, it is too late. I tried my best on the fourth [of December]. I begged Mr Muthiah.

But Mr Morarka, what important work did you have when you knew that the lives of these five cricketers was to be decided? Was it that you wanted the meeting postponed, and because it was not, you decided not to attend?

No. The lives of the cricketers are more important for me. It was something unavoidable, a prior commitment of months ago. I told Mr Muthiah. Nowadays, the media pressure is too much. A hundred people gather outside and ask for a date. If I was Mr Muthiah I would have said I can't announce the date; I have to consult my other two members, so don't force me to announce the date today. But under pressure he said that by Tuesday I'll announce it; 5th December.

The general perception is the more you delay, behind-the-scene deals take place...

According to me, decisions taken when passions are high are not the right decisions. Things should cool down before you take a decision.

But it has been more than six months...

Six months is the time the CBI took; and then Madhavan took around 26 days. The Madhavan report came around 26th November. So the decision was taken in one week only, and in one week the passions have run very high. So I am of the opposite view. There can be two views, but my view is that anything that has to done with responsibility and prudence takes time.

What happens from here on? Don't you feel there is trouble brewing in the BCCI?

No. The BCCI is like a normal body. What trouble? There are elections every year, but the elections are not trouble.

There has been talk that Mr Raj Singh Dungarpur and Mr Muthiah are very close to each other... Mr Dungarpur

No question of close or not close. Dungarpur is of my view. In fact, he is a step ahead of me. He says Azharuddin's achievements should not be overlooked. I was pleasantly surprised to get some support.

What kind of proof are you looking for? Are you convinced that the cricketers are clean?

Cricketers are part of society. They are as clean or as vulnerable as any other section of society, whether they are bureaucrats, doctors, lawyers or anybody else. The only difference is they get more public adulation. So, in a different way, they are morally answerable to the public and to us. And for that the people also accord punishment. Azhar, when he comes out to bat, people want him to score a century and he gets out scoring five runs. So for that, he is answerable directly to the people.

But as far as Azhar's rights as a citizen are concerned --- and we as a cricketing body want to punish him --- we must go by evidence to punish him. Newspapers have a right to write. Indian newspapers have been writing that he has sold the country. I don't understand the phrase. What, sold the country? What? Can a cricketer sell the country? You can just take money and get out.

But if you throw a match, isn't it equivalent to selling the country?

No. It is a very extreme word in the kind of society we are living in. Do you think the politicians who are taking decisions, any decision that I perceive not to be right, I will say he sold the country. I think these are all phrases and they should be avoided. Let's come back to the rational. In no other country do they use these phrases. If there is proof you can say anything. Like in the case of Hansie Cronje. I have nothing to say.

What about the fact that Cronje said Azhar introduced him to M K Gupta?

Introducing is a very dangerous business. Tomorrow if I turn out to be a wrong man, they will say you spoke to me for 15 minutes on the phone.

What was the intention of replying to the CBI report?

That was a different matter altogether, because the CBI was asked to investigate matchfixing and related malpractices. So, first they spoke about bookies and then they spoke about these 7, 8 people. In several places in their report they have gone totally outside their ambit and made comments which bring down the dignity of the CBI.

Why do you say that?

Because the CBI is a criminal investigating agency. If it starts giving comments on whether an organisation runs properly or not, those comments don't have the same validity.

Do you think the comments were weighed upon?

No, they were actually wrong; inaccurate. Because the figures given are all wrong. The facts are wrong.

But there are some facts where I think the BCCI's counterarguments are not convincing enough. Take, for example, the globalisation and the amount of ODIs being played. The BCCI has made a statement that says it is false that India plays more ODIs than Test matches. I mean which country plays more Tests than ODIs?

I mean if that sentence is there, then that sentence is not structured correctly. It is false to say that India plays more ODIs than the other countries are playing.

But it does. India has played 139, Pakistan 111, South Africa 98. Australia and West Indies have played around 85 ODIs.

If it is so, that is if we are playing too much cricket, then the ICC has fixed the norms -- that cricket will be played for so many days of the year and all the captains have agreed to it. It is not too much cricket as far as the cricketers are concerned; they are happy with the amount of cricket that we are playing.

In fact, the captains said there should be 25 ODIs and 12 Tests in one year.

We are discussing the CBI investigation and what the CBI has got to do with this issue. So let us discuss that. Suppose I call the CBI to investigate this murder they are supposed to find out who murdered. They can't complain that the chandelier in the house is not good and that the television should have been a Sony.

You know, Mr Morarka, if you had seen the Tehelka tapes, then Mr J Y Lele...

Again, what does that tape prove? That some officials like to talk. But what is the evidence? Nothing.

There are things on the tapes that make you wonder why these issues were not covered at all. Say, for instance, Mr Ajit Wadekar admitted he had submitted a report saying that yes.....

Those reports are not true. They are there in a file.

Why then did Mr Wadekar say that? Why hasn't the BCCI taken him up on that?

With whom? It's a free-for-all; everybody is talking to the press. We don't have a single manager's report which says anything which is actionable and we have not taken action.

Are you saying the BCCI has functioned well and there is no room for improvement?

I don't know about that. But I can tell you two things -- one, the BCCI is run better than any other sports federation in India. Two, the BCCI compares well with other cricket boards in the world. I can't say it's the best run cricket board in the world.

Why is there no professionalism? Why can't we pay our officials?

Do you believe the people we pay will function better?

Why not? Because they can be held accountable!

Honorary people are more accountable because they have to win the election next year. They will be thrown out if they don't function properly. Now don't go into all this, it is all a school of thought. Everything is becoming corporate and privatised. It is in fashion. The BCCI has been running for 40 years; the last few years they have been able to collect a lot of money because of the advent of technology. And good marketing by Mr Bindra and Mr Dalmiya.

Today the same thing has become an albatross around our neck. Everybody wants to say you have too much money. I mean the game has become popular. Go and make hockey and football popular; make money. Who has stopped you? It is an even playing field.

But it is the people who made the game popular...


Are you not accountable to them?

Of course.

More accountable to the people than to the 31 associations?

Of course, and also to the media. This media business must stop. The media says people have lost interest in the game because of matchfixing. I was in Jodhpur (during the ODI against Zimbabwe) and there was not a single sign of popularity going down. There was a mad rush.

Chat with Kamal Morarka, on The Rediff Chat, Tuesday, December 19, 1330 hours. Don't miss it!

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