A top Indian cricketer, part of the 2011 World Cup-winning squad, was in touch with a known bookie in the days leading up to an international match during the 2008-09 season; there was a purported recorded conversation between the two; a senior police investigator appointed by the Supreme Court said that the bookie was “willing” to give him evidence but backed out — and that lead went cold.
That police officer, B B Misra, named as lead investigator by the apex court in the Indian Premier League corruption probe in 2013, has broken his silence in a detailed conversation with The Indian Express. He has said that he couldn’t crack the case because he didn’t have time — he spoke to the bookie days before his deadline for submission of the report to the apex court — and it was not part of his charter.
Misra investigated as many as nine players but it was only the findings of his probe into officials which were made public and acted upon.
Speaking about the alleged player-bookie chat in 2008-09, Misra said: “There is one such instance related to an international match that was played in India. But I could not probe that instance to its logical conclusion. That is what I am suggesting. This thing happened during an international cricket match, probably in the run-up to the match. Just a day or two before the match. It happened in 2008-09.”
Misra declined to identify the player.
Asked about the evidence, Misra said: “It was a phone conversation (between the player and the bookie) that was recorded… It would have taken a lot more time (beyond) October 31. There are two voices on the telephone. Allegedly one is that of the player and the other one is of the bookie. If I have to investigate, I have to take voice samples of the player and the voice samples of the bookie. Send it for forensic opinion. That takes a month. And then, why do I have to do it when it was not part of my charter? It could have been done if we had more time…We didn’t get an occasion for the player and the bookie to be confronted. I managed to speak to the bookie. He did say he was in touch with the player,” he said.
He added, “I would have confronted the player with the information I got from the bookie. But (that) evidence didn’t come from the bookie though I knew the evidence existed, I could not pursue it. I knew of this specific instance where the bookie had confided in somebody else, I got that information, the bookie accepted that information before me also, he was willing to give the evidence but in the last minute he decided not to.”
Misra said he could not take the probe to the “logical conclusion because it was not part of my charter.”
Elaborating on his charter, Misra said, “I had to focus on the allegations against N Srinivasan (former BCCI president), Gurunath Meiyappan, Raj Kundra and Sundar Raman (former IPL COO). I think it was very focused and looked into these four. The allegations on the players (nine) were also looked into.”
“Enough allegations were made against the players. Nine players, not just one. We investigated both. Only thing is that the investigation related to the four officials has been made public,” he said.
Last week, the Supreme Court delivered its final order in the IPL corruption case that skirted this aspect of the probe – Misra’s findings on the players remains with the court.
Misra joined the IPL probe on the Supreme Court’s insistence after Justice Mudgal, in his first report, mentioned several cases of suspected sporting fraud.
Not willing to cast aspersions on individuals allegedly involved in questionable activities without thorough investigation, Mudgal mentioned their names but put them in a sealed cover and submitted that to the court. Misra was tasked with following the leads against 13 suspects – four officials and nine players.
During his four-month probe from mid-June to October 31, 2014 Misra questioned over 100 people, including 30 players and top officials. His findings were part of Justice Mukul Mudgal’s final report that was submitted to the Supreme Court.
Misra’s comments assume significance since it is his investigation that helped the Justice RM Lodha committee — appointed by the apex court to decide the quantum of punishment on those it found guilty — impose life bans on IPL team officials/co-owners Gurunath Meiyappan (Chennai Super Kings) and Raj Kundra (Rajasthan Royals). And set off sweeping changes in the way cricket is managed and administered in the country.
Another lead that Misra investigated involved a woman who claimed to be in touch with a “known cricketer.” But it proved to be a false lead. The woman had told a bookie that she knew the player (one of the nine under probe) and could get him to share match-related information.
“I spoke to the lady and got the information that she was boasting about before another bookie to make some money by saying ‘I can talk to the player and get some information’. This lady provided one telephone number saying it was of the player, but the number turned out to be of someone else,” Misra said.
Considering the complex nature of cricket betting and match-fixing, was four months enough time for the probe? Misra says more time would have helped. “I think the Supreme Court was fair enough. They initially gave us about two months and extended it up to the end of October and Justice Mukul Mudgal was very clear in his mind right from the beginning that we will not ask for an extension. There were goals to be achieved within a time frame. I think whatever we wanted to achieve, we did within those three-and-a half months. To be honest, for something I wanted to achieve going beyond that, probably a little more time would have helped.”
Misra added: “I had been given certain particular specific allegations, so prudence demanded that I remained within the laxmanrekha marked by the Supreme Court. I didn’t transgress those boundaries. Yes, it could have been possible but it would have required us to tell the Supreme Court to give us time, enlarge the scope to this also.”
Misra has probed high-profile cases such as the Bihar fodder scam and the Nandigram firing in West Bengal. He is currently a Special Rapporteur for the East Zone for the National Human Rights Commission.