Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Indian police point finger at Samuels

PLAYING WITH FIRE?Windies all-rounder Marlon Samuels denied any wrongdoing after he admitted to knowing Mukesh Kochar, an associate of an Indian underworld figure


India's cricket chiefs yesterday passed the buck to the sport's world governing body after a fresh match-fixing scandal threatened to tarnish the game.

Indian police stunned the cricket world late on Wednesday when they accused West Indian all-rounder Marlon Samuels of dealing with an illegal bookmaker during a recent one-day series in India.

Indian cricket board vice-president Shashank Manohar said the report from the police in central Nagpur, where the alleged incident took place, had been passed on to the International Cricket Council (ICC).

"The ICC and its anti-corruption unit will deal with what is obviously a very serious accusation," Manohar told reporters. "It concerns a foreign player. The Indian board can't take any action."

There was no immediate reaction from the ICC, but Samuels, 26, denied any wrongdoing.

"I don't do such things man," yesterday's Times of India quoted Samuels as saying. "I have not done anything wrong. The West Indies Cricketers' Association will take up the matter if necessary."

Amitesh Kumar, deputy police commissioner of Nagpur, said Samuels released important team information to the bookmaker during the first-one day international, citing tapped telephone conversations between the pair.

Kumar told reporters on Wednesday that Samuels had five conversations with the bookmaker, identified in the calls as Mukesh Kochar, although there was no evidence money had changed hands.

India won the match against the West Indies on Jan. 21 by 14 runs.

"We have recorded information that Samuels leaked important team information to Kochar from his hotel room in five telephone calls on Jan. 20 and 21," Kumar said.

"Kochar is a known associate of underworld figure Dawood Ibrahim," Kumar said, "We do not have evidence if any financial commitment was made. All I will say is the link between the player and the bookie is a violation of the ICC Code of Conduct for players."

Kumar said Samuels spoke to Kochar from his room in the Pride Hotel where both the Indian and West Indian teams were staying.

The Times of India said Samuels admitted knowing Kochar but insisted: "I don't think he's a bookie. I usually talk about cricket but don't give out any such information."

The newspaper said Samuels laughed when told Nagpur police had recorded his conversations with Kochar.

Kumar added he believed no other player from either side was in touch with the bookmaker, but declined to say why Samuels' phone had been tapped.

"It was our job to investigate and bring the matter to the notice of the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] and the ICC," he said.

The West Indies, led by Brian Lara, flew home last week after losing the four-match series 3-1.

Cricket was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal in 2000, when New Delhi police tapped conversations between former South African captain Hansie Cronje and an Indian bookmaker during a Test and one-day series in India.

Cronje, who later died in a plane crash in 2002, accepted he was in touch with bookmakers and was banned from the game for life by South African authorities.

The match-fixing scandal also saw two other captains, Mohammad Azharuddin of India and Salim Malik of Pakistan, being banned for life.

The controversy comes a month before cricket's showpiece event, the World Cup, begins in the Caribbean on March 13.

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