|Player:||MN Samuels, M Azharuddin, Saleem Malik, WJ Cronje|
|Event:||West Indies in India 2006/07|
DateLine: 10th February 2007
The alleged bookmaker with links to West Indian cricketer Marlon Samuels said on Friday he was ready to be investigated because he had done nothing wrong. Mukesh Kochar, speaking by phone to several Indian television stations, denied he was a cricket bookie but admitted to knowing Samuels who was "like a son" to him. "I am not a bookie," said Kochar, adding he was an Indian businessman based in Dubai where he was taking calls from reporters. "I know Marlon for some years now. He is like a son to me. I spoke to him after all this started. Like me, he is also shocked." Police in the central Indian city of Nagpur stunned the cricket world late Wednesday when they accused Samuels of passing on team information to Kochar, described by them as a well-known cricket bookie. Police said they had taped conversations between the two ahead of the first of four one-day internationals between India and the West Indies in Nagpur on January 21. The police stressed they had no evidence that money had changed hands, but Samuels faces a life ban from cricket if the allegations of any wrongdoing are proved. Indian cricket officials have passed on the police report to the Dubai-based International Cricket Council (ICC) whose anti-corruption unit is investigating. Kochar said he will co-operate with any inquiry conducted by the ICC. "If they contact me, I will be the first person to help them out," he told the news channels. "I am willing to visit them whenever. My heart is clear." Asked if he bet on cricket, Kochar retorted: "Who doesn't bet on cricket? It's a different matter whether I am into punting or not." When confronted on why he wanted team information from Samuels, Kochar said: "I only wanted to encourage Samuels to do better. As I have explained I have advised Samuels as a friend and as a father (figure)."
Kochar also dismissed police claims he had links with underworld figure Dawood Ibrahim, India's most wanted man accused to masterminding the 1993 Mumbai blasts that left 257 dead and many injured. "That is not correct," he said. "Who doesn't know him by his name? Every day on TV and newspapers you see his name." Police said they were keeping a watch on a house in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi which they claimed was owned by Kochar. Jamaican Samuels, 26, who has played 23 Tests and 83 one-dayers for the West Indies, has also denied any wrongdoing while admitting he knew Kochar. "I don't do such things man," Samuels was quoted as saying from the Caribbean by Indian media. "I have not done anything wrong. The West Indies Cricketers' Association will take up the matter if necessary. I don't think Kochar's a bookie. I usually talk about cricket but don't give out any such information." The controversy comes a month before cricket's showpiece event, the World Cup, begins in the Caribbean on March 13. Cricket was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal in 2000 that led to three former national team captains, Hansie Cronje of South Africa, Mohammad Azharuddin of India and Salim Malik of Pakistan, being banned for life.