New Delhi: Ram Adhar Choudhary, one of the groundsmen who prepared the pitch for the 1996 Delhi Test against Australia, has denied that anyone gave him money to make a "suitable" track for the match, thus contradicting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on match-fixing in Indian cricket. "Nobody has ever given me any money to make the pitch that could suit any team," he told IANS. However, CBI report claims that former Indian Test batsman Ajay Sharma had paid Rs 50,000 to Choudhary to make a favorable pitch, a few days before the Ferozeshah Kotla Test in October. "I was even called by the CBI to its headquarters, where I was questioned on the same issue," Choudhary said. "I had even told them the same thing - that no one had ever paid me money to make the pitch to favor Indian spinners for that match." This statement clearly contradicts his statement to the CBI. Although Choudhary said he knew Sharma, he denied that the former Delhi captain ever offered him money to make the pitch on his specific instructions. Choudhary said he has been working as a groundsman for about 20 years. Interestingly, when an international match comes to Delhi, it becomes difficult to find out as to who is the chief curator, as more than one person claims to be in charge. One Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) functionary said that he only remembered that the then India team coach Madan Lal had asked three days before the start of the Test that the pitch be left as it was, but denied that his request implied any ulterior motive. Incidentally, it was the former India all-rounder's first match as the national coach. Another DDCA official wondered how could all this have happened under the officials' nose. He, however, refused to say whether any action would be taken against the groundsman on the basis of the CBI report. According to the CBI report, Sharma "contacted" Gupta and told him that he (Sharma) "could get the pitch prepared in such a way that there would be a definite result in that match." Sharma said that he could do that with the help of the Kotla groundsmen. The report further says that Sharma asked Choudhary to meet him at Rajghat on a particular day and time. There Sharma introduced another person, who had come with him, to Choudhary and the strategy was explained to the groundsman. Australia, who won the toss and batted, scored 182, with Michael Slater making 44. Anil Kumble took four wickets 63, while off-spinner Ashish Kapoor took two. Thanks to man-of-the-match Nayan Mongia's superb 152 and Saurav Ganguly's 66, India replied with 361. In the second innings, Australia fared better and scored 234, Steve Waugh making an unbeaten 67. Kumble was again the highest wicket taker, with five for 67. India notched up the winning runs easily, to clinch victory by seven wickets in three and half days.
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India Abroad News Service
Pettis and dibbas connote millions!