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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 November, 2003, 18:02 GMT
Bribe case player attends hearing
Abhijeet Kale
Abhijit Kale has strenuously denied the allegations
Indian batsman Abhijit Kale, at the centre of a bribery scandal, on Saturday appeared at an inquiry into the matter claiming "total innocence".

Kale stands accused of offering 1m rupees (12,800) to Kiran More and Pranab Roy in exchange for a place in the India squad to tour Australia.

"I have nothing to do with these allegations," Kale said after the hearing with the three-member committee of the Maharashtra Cricket Association.

Kale's fate should be known in 15 days.

Head of the Indian Bar Council DV Subbarao, who is conducting the inquiry, has been asked to submit his report to the Indian board's disciplinary committee within that time.

On Friday Kale was suspended from all first-class cricket pending the result of the inquiry, a decision that was met with some criticism from several prominent Indian cricket identities.

"It's not correct. Nobody should take away a person's right to represent until proven guilty," said former Test captain Dilip Vengsarkar.

Madhav Mantri, a former selector and Test player, said Kale "should not have been suspended. I think it's very unfair on the player."

The most severe criticism came from Narendra Hirwani, who has not figured in the national side for several years, but finished as top wicket-taker in domestic cricket last season.

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly
Mere allegation isn't an established fact
Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly

"Indian cricket selectors are the most prejudiced lot," Hirwani told The Hindustan Times. "They just believe in achieving their ends and can go to any extent."

Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said the two selectors first reported the matter to him last Saturday.

"I asked them to submit the complaint in writing, which I got last night," he said.

"More said he was approached in an unethical manner, which could be an unhealthy precedent, while Roy said he was offered a bribe.

"The Board has instituted an inquiry panel to probe the charge and Kale will not be playing in any first-class matches until the inquiry is completed."

The scandal is the biggest to hit Indian cricket since the match-fixing saga in 2000 which led to life bans for former captain Mohammad Azharuddin and ex-Test player Ajay Sharma and five-year bans for fellow internationals Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar.

Azharuddin and Jadeja are contesting their bans in court, and the Delhi High Court allowed Jadeja to take part in domestic cricket pending a final judgement.

Kale has been offered welcome support by national captain Sourav Ganguly, who said: "I don't believe there's anything in it.

"I've known Kale for a long time. I don't think a person like him would do such a thing."

Kale is a highly successful batsman at domestic level, having scored more than 6,800 runs at an average of 58.67, including 24 centuries.

His only international experience came in April when he played in a one-day game against Bangladesh in Dhaka, scoring only 10 in a nine-wicket Indian win.




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