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November 8, 2000

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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Nayan Mongia

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If there is proof please bring it forward: Mongia

What have I done to deserve this? Ever since 1996, when I dropped (Andrew) Hudson of South Africa in the Test series, I have never dropped a single catch or, for that matter, ever missed a stumping," says former India wicketkeeper Nayan Ramlal Mongia, who faces an uncertain future after being indicted in the Central Bureau of Investigation's report on match-fixing.

The man who donned the gloves for India for a better part of the last decade says he can't fathom why former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin has told the CBI that he fixed matches along with him.

Nayan Mongia "I have no clue why Azhar has named me; I have no idea. The CBI has given me a clean chit. They have said that I have no links with bookies; they haven't got any numbers of bookies from or to my mobile numbers. And that is because I have done nothing wrong.

"I am the highest individual tax payer in Vadodara. Now suddenly people are saying that he isn't paying that much tax any more. How can I pay that much tax now that I am not playing that much cricket. I am being suspected of being a match-fixer. I have never thrown a match in my life. I don't know any bookies. I didn't even know about this till I read about it in the newspapers, and till I S Bindra announced it on CNN," moaned Mongia, when Faisal Shariff spoke to him soon after the release of the CBI report. Excerpts.

Why did you bat slowly, in the game in Kanpur, with Manoj Prabhakar?

When I went out to bat, the team management ...

Who were in the team management at that time?

Azharuddin, Wadekar and Sachin. They told me that we should not lose any more wickets, and that if we got as close to the score as possible it would give us a chance to get into the finals of the tournament (Wills World Series). So I went out there and asked Manoj to play carefully and not lose any more wickets.

Have you spoken to Azhar or Jadeja after the CBI report was made public?

No, I haven't. Why should I? I have done no wrong. I have no reason to speak to them. The matches that Azhar is talking about, I haven't even played in them. I was not in the 14 that played the Asia Cup. Saba Karim was the wicketkeeper on that tour.

There is talk that some senior players are unhappy with your behaviour. They claim that you stay aloof and aren't a team man. How do you counter those allegations?

I get along well with everyone in the team. Tell me who is unhappy with me? I have a very good relationship with everyone in the team. See, I am a very quiet person off the field. I play the game and go to my hotel room. I don't even interfere with who is in next room. I just stay by myself; that's my nature. I don't like to interfere with anyone.

Nayan Mongia Maybe that is the reason why you are disliked. When you went to Australia earlier this year, you were not treated well by the players...

Nothing like that. In fact, we all went out once and we had a nice time. I have never had a problem ever in my career with the players. I don't know who is spreading these rumours. If you can tell me who is behind this, I will see to it that the matter is sorted out.

So, who do you think is doing this? Or for that matter, why are you being targeted? Does it have anything to do with the fact that you hail from the same city as Lele?

Yes, that is it. I think that is what everyone thinks. But do you know something? The day he became the secretary, I was dropped. So how can anyone say that he is lobbying for me? He is a very just man. He has never lobbied for me. If it was like that then I wouldn't have been dropped from the side. He knows me since I was ten years old. After my father, he is the only man who can scold me. I have immense respect for him.

How much has this entire allegation affected you? How have you reacted to it?

I am fine. I am not worried about anything. When my conscience is clear then I have nothing to be worried about. My family members, friends and well-wishers are all behind me. They have asked me to read the newspaper reports and flush it off.

Unfortunately, it's not the newspaper reports that should worry you, but the CBI report that should be the reason of real concern. The CBI hasn't really gotten off your back...

See, the CBI has given me a clean chit. They have stated that I am not involved with bookies and that I have never ever 'done' a match. You know the press floated stories about me when the raids were taking place and said that there was a raid at my place when there wasn't any. My bank accounts are open for everyone to see. If there is proof please bring it forward. I know there is nothing, because I haven't done anything.

(Just then two teenage girls walk up to us and ask for his autograph, Mongia immediately obliges, then turns to me and says, "See what I mean. That means a lot and says a lot.")

I am not worried about anything. The board has told me that they trust me, and they will stand by me. Then what do I have to worry about? I will be defiant and not give in. How can a wicketkeeper affect the course of a match besides dropping a catch or missing a stumping?

Since I got married, I remember clearly that I have not dropped a single catch or missed a single stumping. Every time the team management has asked me to open the innings I have done so without any reservations. If the captain wants me to go out there and slog as an opener then I will do that. If he has fixed that then I don't know about it.

But if the top five batsmen can't get the runs how do you expect a number seven to do the job every time? The three games that Azhar speaks about, that I helped him fix, know what, I didn't even play in two of them. I remember the Rajkot game against South Africa, but I didn't play in the Asia Cup at all.


Mail Cricket Editor