Lara refutes match-fixing allegation

by Tony Cozier
Stabroek News
November 2, 2000

BRIAN LARA last night refuted the allegations that placed him once more at the centre of his latest controversy.

"I categorically deny taking money from a bookmaker or anyone else to underperform," Lara said in a statement issued through the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). "I have passed this matter to my lawyers to take appropriate action and I will be making no further comment."

The former West Indies captain arrived in London yesterday morning, with the West Indies team for an overnight stop on its way to its forthcoming tour of Australia, to learn that India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report into match-fixing included evidence that a prominent bookmaker had given him "around $40,000" to "underperform" in two one-day matches on the tour of India in late 1994.

Skerritt said Lara was unfazed by the claims that had been first hinted at in newspapers in Jamaica before the team's departure Tuesday night.

"Brian is in great spirits," Skerritt reported. "He is aware of it, we have spoken about it and, as far as he's concerned, it never happened. He's not even prepared to discuss it further."

"It" is the 162-page CBI report, subject of endless speculation until its official, public release yesterday.

"We went through something like this on the tour of England in the summer and that proved to be a malicious untruth," Skerritt said, referring to a charge made by an unnamed South African businessman, and later discredited, that Lara had bet on matches on the 1993 West Indies tour of England.

"Anybody can allege anything and this guy apparently told the police something without any evidence," he added. "I don't think I'd take the word of a bookmaker in India who finds himself in a corner against Brian's."

Skerritt said he did not believe the furore would have any "big effect" on the team.

"At this point in time, I've not seen any reason to be alarmed but we have to be very vigilant and I have to stay very close to Brian on this," he added. "We're not going to deal with this," the manager explained. "The West Indies Board will deal with this, if and when they get the CBI report from the Indian Board."

WICB president Pat Rousseau has been in Antigua since Tuesday, preparing for a two-day meeting today and tomorrow to discuss West Indies cricket.

He could not be contacted yesterday but both he and chief executive Gregory Shillingford said earlier they would not come to any conclusions until they saw copies of the report.

Only two West Indian players are mentioned in the BCI report, both in Gupta's reported evidence.

Former Indian all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar, a close associate of Gupta, was said to receive money for introducing the bookmaker to international players.

But when he telephoned Gus Logie, "Logie refused to cooperate in any manner with them".

Later, according to the report, there were "some festival matches in Sri Lanka and many international players were taking part" and Prabhakar introduced Lara and former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga to Gupta.

"Towards the end of 1994, West Indies came to India and MK met Brian Lara again," the report states, quoting Gupta's evidence. "Brian Lara offered to underperform in two one-day matches and his information proved correct and MK made some money by betting on those matches."

"MK stated that he gave a sum of around $40,000 to Brian Lara for his information," the report adds.

It provides a gripping, detailed and unsettling account of illegal gambling on cricket in India and listed eight former Test captains named by Gupta as having received money to either perform below par or provide inside information on the game.

The West Indies booked in for the overnight stay at the Excelsior Hotel at Heathrow, an establishment with unhappy memories for West Indies cricket. It was where the players staged their week-long strike on their way to South Africa two years ago, with Lara as captain, before reaching agreement over their grievances with the WICB

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