New Delhi: An influential Indian cricket official launched an astonishing attack on the match-fixing report by federal investigators on Sunday, saying it resembled a prostitute's diary.Kamal Morarka, one of three officials nominated to hand out punishment to guilty players this week, described the report by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as a "big joke.""What is the credibility of such a report?" Morarka said in an interview with an Indian website."It is like a prostitute's diary. You will find names of so many rich and famous people there. How does a set of names in a bookie's diary matter?"Morarka is one of five vice-presidents of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and sits on its three-member disciplinary committee, which will decide the fate of five tainted players.The CBI report accuses former captain Mohammad Azharuddin of match-fixing and four others - Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Sharma and Nayan Mongia - of hobnobbing with bookmakers. Highly-placed sources have told AFP that while Azharuddin faces a life ban, there is pressure from within the BCCI and outside to go soft on Jadeja, the only one among the five with a realistic chance of playing for India again.In the interview, Morarka said "the corrupt" CBI had not been able to prove match-fixing charges against the players."All they have concluded is that match-fixing exists in cricket," Morarka said. "So what is this great thing that they have done? Everybody knew that match-fixing exists in cricket. "There is no cogent evidence against anybody, apart from Azharuddin. All the CBI has, by way of evidence, is mobile phone bills and printouts. "But the cricketers have not really confessed to anything at all. Most of them have said that they met these people at health clubs and the like."And mobile phone conversations do not necessarily have to do with match-fixing. I don't think that the CBI has proved match-fixing at all."Morarka did not spare the CBI, which castigated the functioning of the BCCI and accused it of turning a blind dye to the player-bookie nexus."I sincerely believe that there is no organisation in India that is as corrupt as the CBI," the website quoted him as saying."My statement doesn't leave too much room for debate. It is an axiomatic statement. "They (the CBI) are only a group of police officers that have been taken off duty and inducted in an organisation called the CBI. "Tell me, what is the image of police officers in the country? I think every citizen in the country will admit that the police is more of a problem for them than anything else."The BCCI immediately disassociated itself from Morarka's tirade against the CBI with president A C Muthiah saying it was his personal opinion.A CBI spokesman refused to comment on Morarka's outburst, except to say it had enough evidence against the cricketers to nail them. As the BCCI's disciplinary committee - comprising Muthiah, Morarka and another vice-president Ram Prasad - debates the punishments, federal sports minister Uma Bharti called for stern action against the guilty players and denied any political pressure to save Jadeja."There will be no cover up in the action to be taken against players found guilty in the scandal," Bharti told reporters."Match fixing is a national crime since it involves the honour of the country and the feelings of millions of its citizens."Bharti denied media reports that she was pressured by Defence Minister George Fernandes to protect Jadeja."I do meet Fernandes regularly to discuss various matters since he happens to be a senior minister but he has never mentioned Jadeja's name to me," the sports minister asserted.Bharti said officials from the ministries of Home, Law and External Affairs will meet the CBI next week to discuss action to be taken against the tainted players.Copyright @2000 AFP. All rights reserved
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