By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) The new chief of BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), Shabir Hussein Khandwawala, is a former top cop of Gujarat Police with huge interest in cricket having played and organised police tournaments at the state level.
The 70-year-old, who retired as the Director General of Police (Gujarat) in 2010 and also served as the Director of the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau, was the first person from Gujarat to join the Indian Police Service in 1973.
Khandwawala spoke to IANS on a range of issues, including his plans to stay one step ahead of those seeking to malign the game.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What will be your biggest challenge? And at what level do you think corruption is more prevalent in cricket?
A: My challenge of course would be to try to eradicate corrupt practices at every level – highest or lowest, direct or indirect. The challenge for is me to completely eradicate corruption in cricket so that there is no betting or match-fixing.
Corruption can happen at any level. Even in the past, you have seen that vulnerability is everywhere and at every stage. The important thing is to look after the new players. They may not be knowing or understanding what they are up to or they may be unknowingly passing on information. The ACU has conducted small programmes and presentations and told them how one can be approached.
Initially, it may look like an innocent kind of question [posed by those making corrupt approaches], but it may not be an innocent query. Sometimes there is direct offer, sometimes it could be an indirect offer through someone. They (new players) must understand all that. So you need a good team effort. Most players are getting good amount of money, [IPL] teams are paying them well. It is quite possible that they may impart information unknowingly, which may be used for betting etc.
Q: Will legalising betting help?
A: Betting is not legal in our country. Even if you make it legal, directly or indirectly, betting will help promote fixing in cricket. If you legalise it, more people will get involved. And if more people get involved, it will naturally encourage fixing.
Q: Do you think that the ACU lacks manpower? There have been talks about it in the past…
A: Once I take charge [officially] and assess the situation, then only I will be able to convince the BCCI to give me more manpower. I want to make optimum use of the available manpower. We have to explore the possibility of using the sources, the informers outside the agencies who can directly or indirectly help us in the matter. Then only I will be able to say if we have sufficient manpower.
Q: Will the past cases like the 2013 IPL fixing scandal help?
A: The cases detected in the past have already been of great help to the ACU. It is only through them that we have been able to find out who all are involved — directly and indirectly — in these activities. How they approach the players, how they organise the tournaments etc. The people involved — directly or indirectly — are under our watch through police, officials or other sources. The cases we have detected have been of great help to us.
Q: How much focus does this need?
A: It (surveillance) is a continuous activity. Those indulging in corrupt ptactices use new technologies, newer techniques. We have to detect them. It is a constant struggle between their talent and our accumen.
Q: How do you hope to overcome technological barriers, considering that the fixers find newer ways and methods, and just barring their entry to hotels or dressing rooms alone don’t help?
A: See, the penalties are very heavy. Everyone knows that. The [player’s] future is at stake. Yes, new technologies are there but they can also be brought under surveillance. Don’t you think not being able to play for two, three or four years at the highest level is in itself a very, very heavy penalty? You lose one series and that itself is a big penalty. And if you are away for 3-4 years, that makes a lot of difference.
Q: Have you been talking to your predecessor?
A: Yes, I have been speaking to my predecessors. I have requested my predecessor (Ajit Singh) to come to Chennai as I want to try and understand things further. You strengthen an organisation like that. I will try to continue and build on what the previous officers had done.
Every day a new challenge is expected to come. You have to have a very good team, one that is integrated. Communication is most crucial. Respect and confidence and faith and encouraging your team is very crucial. As a team leader that is expected of you. If I do that, then no challenge would be big enough.
Q: The smaller leagues are said to be most vulnerable to corrupt practices…
A: I have been told [about that]. People who have been organising these kinds of tournaments, some kind of legal action has been taken against them. There are things we are working on. Anyway, those tournaments don’t happen without the permission of the BCCI. Once they are given permission, we have to be careful to ensure illegal activities don’t take place. But at the moment, conducting the IPL smoothly is the priority for us.
Q: Have you played cricket at some level?
A: I was always fond of cricket. I played for my school team, but could not play in college because I was a science student. But after joining the police, I organised cricket at the district level, then at the range level etc. I started state-level (intra-state in Gujarat) tournaments for the police, and also conducted inter-services tournaments etc. I did it for a number of years. I used to play regularly in them. I was a medium-pacer. I always opened batting for the Police XI and Combined Services XI. Initially, I also used to open the bowling, but became a first change bowler when younger players came into the team. Cricket has been my passion.
Q: Who is your favourite cricketer?
A: I always loved watching Sunil Gavaskar. He was fantastic. I liked Sachin Tendulkar and (Virender) Sehwag too. Also, (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni was out of this world.
Q: And among the current lot?
A: (Virat) Kohli is unbelievable. His self-confidence is amazing. I was watching the last ODI in Pune at the stadium since I had gone there to meet the office-bearers of the board and then I visited the office [in Mumbai] where I spent the whole day understanding things. What I liked about Kohli was that he came to the bowlers and talked to them even while standing at the boundary line.