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November 1, 2000

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The CBI Report in Full -- Part 19

Statement of Dr Ali Irani Dr Ali Irani, Physiotherapist of the Indian cricket team,

stated that he had been with the Indian cricket team from 1987 to 1997, expect for a gap of around 6 months in between. According to him, it was in 1994, in the India-West Indies one-day international at Kanpur, that everybody, for the first time, felt that something was wrong.

In fact in that match, Manoj Prabhakar and Nayan Mongia did not chase the target and just played out the remaining balls.

According to Dr. Irani, it looked as if they were batting to play out the balls rather than winning the mach and Azharuddin instead of passing necessary instructions, was sitting in the dressing -room unmindful of what was happening on the ground.

Dr. Irani further stated that people were so upset that one of the selectors, GR Vishwanath, even came to the dressing room and shouted at Wadekar asking him whether he knew what was going on and whether he had passed on any instructions.

After the match was over, when Manoj Prabhakar came to the dressing room, he said that Nayan Mongia had asked him to play out the remaining balls, as that was the instruction from the dressing room.

When Nayan Mongia was asked about it, he said that he had been told to say so but who had told him to say so, he could not explain. That evening when the team was returning after dinner in a bus, Manoj Prabhakar was abusing Wadekar and Azhar probably because he knew that a decision to drop him and Nayan Mongia for the next two matches had been taken.

Dr. Irani also stated that certain undesirable characters were gaining entry into the dressing room. There was an instance of team members, specially from the south in a Test Match against Sri Lanka in 1996, strongly objecting to the presence of Ajay Sharma, a former Indian player, in the dressing room.

Dr. Irani further stated that he also saw Ajay Sharma in Chandigarh when the Indian team was playing there. Ajay Sharma had brought some bats for Azharuddin, but during that match, Azhar was down with fever and he could not play, so he left the place with Ajay Sharma.

It was well known that Ajay Sharma was very close to Azhar. Another instance where Dr. Irani suspected the match was deliberately lost was in the West Indies in 1997. The Indian team had to make only a few runs, but in spite of a number of wickets in hand, they could not make them and the manner in which the team played raised suspicion.

After the match, some of the boys blamed the loss due to "a silly excuse" like "Voodoo" being practiced by some locals on the field. Dr. Irani categorically stated that he was not aware of the alleged offer of Rs.25 lakhs made by Kapil Dev to Manoj Prabhakar to underperform in Sri Lanka till the controversy appeared in the media a couple of years back.

He could not say whether the allegation was correct. Dr. Irani further stated that in the Indian Team, Nayan Mongia and Manoj Prabhakar were good friends and so were Azhar and Ajay Jadeja and Sidhu and Manoj Prabhakar. Initially, Ajay Jadeja was also very close to Manoj Prabhakar.

Dr. Irani had often seen Azhar and Ajay Jadeja talking in hushed tones and very often he had doubted that their conversation related to some "hanky-panky" in the matches. Dr. Ali Irani denied knowing any person by the name MK Gupta. However, on being shown a photograph of M K Gupta, he stated that this person had been introduced to him by Azhar as "John" and not "M.K. Gupta", in a test match in Ahmedabad in 1996.

Later, when Azhar became closer to Dr. Irani, he opened up and asked him to collect money on his behalf. Dr. Irani told Azhar that he could not collect money on his behalf, but if someone gave money for Azhar through him in his room he would tell Azhar. Azhar then told him that "John" would give him money and then this person "John" and his representative (a guy from Bombay) gave him money for Azhar on a number of occasions.

Azhar would ring him or tell him in advance that John would be sending money. Dr. Irani, however, stated that he could not say how much money had been transferred by John to Azhar, but each transaction was in lakhs and some transactions were as high as Rs.10 to 15 lakhs.

For rendering this service Azhar used to pay Dr. Irani anywhere from Rs.25,000 to Rs.50,000 on each occasion. Dr. Irani further stated that although he was a conduit for transfer of money from John to Azhar, he did on each occasion tell Azhar that what he was doing was not correct.

However, his greed to be with the Indian team as a physiotherapist got the better of him. On being asked as to which other players were involved with Azhar, Dr. Irani stated that he thought that Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia and Manoj Prabhakar were also involved with Azhar in this matter.

He further stated that he had absolutely no doubt about the involvement of Ajay Jadeja with Azhar as, in 1996, one day Ajay Jadeja told him not to talk about 'such things' as he was no longer into it. Dr. Irani suspected that he said this to him since Ajay knew by that time that Azhar had confided in him as to what was happening.

Dr. Irani further stated that the bookies normally approached the players individually and that often two players would not even realise that they had been approached by the same bookie.

Dr. Irani further stated that if one studied the body language of the players after a match, then at times, one could realise that a particular player was involved in match fixing.

There have been occasions even when the Indian team had won, some players were not happy after the match. In fact, in a match against Pakistan during the Independence Cup, the Indian team had won, but when the camera focussed on Azhar, he did not appear happy. Noticing this, the camera focussed on him for a considerable time.

Dr. Irani further stated that during the later stages, his relationship with Azhar had come under strain because the latter objected to his association with Sangita Bijlani. Dr. Irani further stated that often one could tell from the reaction of the players in the team meeting, prior to the match, about their performance.

He said this was especially true in the case of Manoj Prabhakar and NS Sidhu. Whenever they spoke a lot in the team meeting, he knew that they were not going to perform well in the next match. Dr. Irani stated that he had never heard anything adverse regarding Tendulkar.

In fact, in most of matches where fixing was taking place, the clue was that the game would 'be on' only when Tendulkar got out because he was one player who could single-handedly win the match and upset any calculation.

On being asked about the involvement of the underworld in match fixing and betting specially with reference to the involvement of Sharad Shetty, Dr. Irani stated that although he did not have any knowledge, once Azhar had told him that as he was 'doing' matches with Anees Ibrahim, he could not 'do' them with anyone else.

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