‘This certainly was not cricket’

Print edition : June 14, 2013

Neeraj Kumar, Delhi Police Commissioner. Photo: Shahbaz Khan/PTI

Interview with Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar.

NEERAJ KUMAR, Commissioner of the Delhi Police, was associated with the inquiry into the cricket match-fixing scandal in 2000 and used that experience to expose instances of spot-fixing in some of the matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL). His investigation led to the arrests of Rajasthan Royals players S. Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila for their alleged links with bookies. Excerpts from a short interview the Delhi Police chief gave Frontline:

The underworld was suspected to be the mastermind behind the spot-fixing scandal. How true is the report that they were threatening the cricketers?

It was not established. There has not been any evidence of the underworld threatening the players. They are threatening the bookies. They are in touch with the bookies; they are not in touch with the players. I am talking about my investigation. There may be some other cases where they were directly in touch with the players, and maybe they were threatening them that you would have to do these things or you might come to grief. But we don’t have material that suggests that the players had any direct contact with the underworld.



What prevents the police from snaring the bookies when they have information on them?

There are two kinds of bookies. One kind is the bookmaker who just bets. If 10 people decide to bet, the 11th person can become the bookmaker and keep accounts. Such bookies are spread all over [the country], in thousands. But the number of bookies who are in a position to compromise players are much fewer; say 50 at the most. We don’t go after general bookies because you can only book them under the Gambling Act, which is a very feeble Act.

They get bail the next day. Still we book them. Alongside this case, we have arrested bookies, recovered laptops, mobile phones, bet money….



How different was the case in 2000?

The 2000 case inquiry was formally with me. I managed to track down M.K. Gupta [a bookmaker], interrogated him at great length, managed to convince him that he should give himself up to the CBI, managed to assure him that he would not be subjected to any third degree [interrogation]. [And that] he would be given fair treatment. I handed him over to the investigating team which was headed by Mr Ravi Sawani [former head of the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) who is currently the chief of the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the Board of Control for Cricket in India].



Is it because of the glamour surrounding cricket that the players go astray?

You don’t become dishonest because there is glamour around you. It is not only for the cricketer but also for the coaches, parents, who spend so much time and money on their children, to groom them in the noble game of cricket. It is the responsibility of the individuals and the people around them to inculcate values that are synonymous with the game. If it is not cricket, it is not fair. It is for the fraternity to drill this into the mind of the youngster: Not to cheat. This certainly was not cricket.

Why would a well-earning cricketer get involved with bookies?

Pure and simple: greed. No other reason. It is greed for more and more. They are paid so well and yet they are not satisfied. They want more money. And it can’t be justified. You are playing for your country, for your team, you are letting down your team, your family. Most of all you are letting down the game of cricket. When we say this is not cricket, we mean this is not fair. As a cricketer you get lured into throwing away games, giving away runs, you are not playing cricket. As they say, it is not cricket.

What was your initial reaction when you learnt of this nexus?

It was one of total disbelief. I told them look it was impossible. How could a bowler ensure the number of runs he would give away? Would it not also depend on the batsmen? But when I heard the transcript and saw the footage I could make out that a bowler was bowling on the leg-side when the fielder was up. It happened again in the same over. It was one of utter disbelief.

What were the challenges in tackling this case?

The challenge in this case was we had to have better evidence because we were arresting them. To wrap it up and to ensure that they get convicted. To go after the fixers is a challenge, to identify them, to observe them and then to get credible evidence to be able to nail them down. That is a challenge.

What can the BCCI do on its part to check this menace?

They have to strengthen their system. They have to develop the mechanism where they will have a list of suspects who can be put under constant surveillance. Frankly, I don’t know how the BCCI functions and how their anti-corruption [unit] functions.

I won’t be able to comment in great detail but suffice it to say that they have to strengthen their mechanism.

Where would you place this achievement in your long career?

Among my top 10. Unfortunately, most of the good work that I have done is not in the public domain. I have done it in the CBI. This certainly is one of the more important catches I have done.

I am proud of what I have done but this at the end of my career would figure in my top 10.

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