The name Sanjeev Chawla evokes disturbing memories of a time when cricket got tarnished by the greed of a few, that shook the sporting community to its core. At the dawn of the 21st century, the world woke up to the news that international cricket’s most loved and trusted player was in touch with a bookie and was selling his skills to fix games and manipulate odds.
On April 7, 2000, Delhi police held a press conference where it was revealed that “some businessmen of India were in contact with South African players for match-fixing in the recently held international series between India and South Africa….. The South African player participating in the conspiracy to fix the matches in consideration of money was identified as Hansie Cronje. One of the conspirators was identified as Sanjeev R/O Jangpura, New Delhi.”
This revelation and the subsequent unravelling of cricket’s secret underbelly was to create convulsions that has left the sport bruised and wounded forever. A cricket fan’s innocent romance with the game died and cynicism set in.
Despite the game’s popularity, the blot on its integrity has left an everlasting stain that no amount of whitewashing has been able to obliterate.
The man, whose taped conversations with the South African captain unleashed a storm that ravaged cricket’s image of a sport which has for long marketed itself as a morality play, has now been extradited from the UK.
The news is being splashed across front pages of most newspapers with a recap of the “fixing” saga, which finally led to a ban on five Indian cricketers, that included its most beloved captain Mohammad Azharuddin as well.
Reading these recaps led to the rewind button being pressed, with Chawla being just one among many others who were central characters in this crime drama that had infiltrated cricket’s pristine image.
John alias MK alias Mukesh Gupta, the Delhi-based diamond seller was one of the lynchpins of this operation, whose revelations to the CBI led the investigating agencies to conclude that match-fixing in the nineties was so rife that almost all international Test captains of that era were on the take of bookies.
Today no one knows the whereabouts of MK, who had cultivated some of the most prominent cricketers across the world.
No one is even sure who was at the helm of this chain that had lured the biggest cricketing names to do their bidding and what role the establishment played in keeping this murky business under wraps.
What purpose will Chawla’s investigation now achieve in a crime that was committed nearly 20 years ago, when even players who were held guilty, are now part of the mainstream? The Delhi police had stumbled upon the Cronje-Chawla conversation by sheer chance, a by-product of an on-going investigation on the underworld and their crimes.
Even today, we hear from time to time that the underworld is connected with the multi-million illegal betting industry and controls cricket’s “fixing operations”.
Going by the revelations of the Indian Premier League betting scandal that surfaced in 2013, the allegations against former Test cricketer S Sreesanth and a few other cricketers and what transpired in the State T20 leagues of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka last year, it is obvious that we know far less than what the real truth is.
Will Chawla lead the Indian police to greater revelations that unmask many more names from that era? Will we get to the bottom of an operation that resurfaces from time to time and shows that cricket never got rid of its wide-spread lethal fangs. The former police officer, BB Mishra, who on Court orders supervised the IPL betting scandal, is clear that unless a coordinated operation that involves the full might of the state machinery is unleashed, it is not possible to get to the bottom of this “fixing” business. Will Chawla’s interrogation serve any purpose or will it be business as usual?
BCCI ACU wants access to bookie
New Delhi: BCCI anti-corruption chief Ajit Singh on Friday said he will request Delhi Police to allow his team to question Sanjeev Chawla. Singh said talking to Chawla might help the BCCI get some valuable information for future investigations. “We would like to know from Delhi Police what all information he has shared with it. And if possible, we would like to talk to him also but totally depends on Delhi Police’s permission,” Singh said. “It is an old case and if it is time barred in our courts, it doesn’t make a difference. We can at least update our data in terms of anything new he reveals which may not have been in public domain. He could know so and so person who was involved in corruption and if there was a bookie involved and that bookie may still be active,” said the BCCI ACU boss.