On no less than three occasions, the presentation of the 210-page interim report had been postponed. The latest announcement has it that it will now be handed over next week to the Sports minister, who will then table the same in both houses of Parliament for a discussion.
Five players, three of them who were members of the Indian team, until a few months ago, an influential official and a former, long-serving physio-therapist, have allegedly been named by the CBI as being involved in match-fixing activities, with the connivance of the bookies. There is mention of names of three foreign players as well.
I understand, from a highly reliable source that an influential minister in the Union cabinet, who is very close to the Home minister, has been trying his best to bail out a couple of big names, against whom the CBI apparently has conclusive evidence to prepare a prima facie case,if not straightaway launch prosecution.
Despite the elaborate and conscientious work done by the investigating agencies, a feeling is inescapable, therefore, that most, if not all those who have been named by the CBI, will get away, as much with their ill-gotten wealth, as with their big reputations intact.
The CBI has reportedly named Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma as the kingpins in the racket and has reportedly not spared Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Jadeja. An important functionary of the BCCI, whose name has not been revealed so far, and former physio Dr Ali Irani are also supposed to be on the list, as also the three foreign players, Hansie Cronje, Salim Malik and Brian Lara.
According to confessions of top bookmakers from Mumbai, Lara is suspected to have been involved infixing the outcome of a 1996 World Cup match between the West Indies and Kenya at Pune. Hansie Cronje' wide-scale involvement in nefarious activities, including that of taking even the bookmakers for a ride, are all too well-known. Salim Malik, the former Pakistan captain, has been in touch with Indian bookies from as early as 1994.