UAE-based cricketer caught up in corruption probe insists he is no criminal and will fight to clear his name

Matt Jones - Editor 12:14 29/10/2019
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UAE pacer Mohammad Naveed is one of the UAE players charged.

An Indian cricketer embroiled in the match-fixing probe involving a clutch of UAE cricketers has spoken out about his ordeal, insisting he is not a criminal while claiming he is being “defamed” by the allegations levelled against him.

Mehardeep Chhayakar contacted Sport360 in the wake of the suspension of four UAE cricketers – and the absconding of another from the country – last week, just days after the nation’s hosting of the T20 World Cup Qualifier had got under way.

Mohammad Naveed, Qadeer Ahmed and Shaiman Anwar were provisionally suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after being charged with multiple violations of the anti-corruption code.

Opener Ashfaq Ahmed was then provisionally suspended with immediate effect by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) following the eight-wicket win over Hong Kong last Monday, October 21.

It then came to light on Tuesday that wicketkeeper Ghulam Shabber had suddenly left the country and returned to his native Pakistan, though he has since denied the decision had anything to do with the investigation.

Chhayakar, born in India but who has lived in the UAE for the last 13 years, was named in an ESPNcricinfo.com article on October 16 as an “alleged corruptor” who had been detained by Zimbabwe police during the UAE’s tour there in April on corruption allegations, but was later released.

Ghulam Shabber went AWOL from the UAE camp before the Hong Kong game.

Ghulam Shabber went AWOL from the UAE camp before the Hong Kong game.

“I’m not a criminal. I have nothing to do with the ongoing cricket scandal in the UAE and I feel I’m being defamed,” Chhayakar, 25, told Sport360 while back home in India where he is undergoing surgery.

“The ACU (ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit) has been in my life since the All Stars Tournament which was held in Ajman. During the time I was in India for a family wedding.

“Ever since that an ACU investigating officer has been continuously harassing me and my family and sending me threatening emails, saying they’d involve law enforcement.”

The tournament Chhayakar alludes to was a private one, unapproved by the ICC and ECB (Emirates Cricket Board), which aroused suspicion in January 2018.

Footage of the competition was widely circulated on the internet, featuring batsmen giving up their wickets to farcical dismissals.

Former Pakistan international Hasan Raza, who now lives in the UAE, was one player involved in the tournament, although the now 37-year-old  said he walked away after the first game when he saw the suspicious nature of cricket on display.

Chhayakar revealed that he is back in India at the moment, not because he is trying to evade authorities – who he has corresponded with throughout – but due to the fact he is undergoing treatment. And he fully intends to return to Dubai in order to clear his name.

“During the ongoing investigation the ACU tried to contact me last month and I clearly stated that I will be going out of country due to my visa issue and my medical treatment,” said Chhayakar, a wicketkeeping all-rounder who has represented a number of clubs during his time in the UAE. These include ECB Green & Blues, Young Talent Cricket Academy, Desert Cubs, Maxtalent, Car Fare Rental and Winter Hill Largo.

“Yet they published saying my whereabouts are unknown. I never refused the ACU for their investigation and yet they are linking my name with different types of people.

“It’s been a while since I’m in India for my ligament surgery and treatment. I will fully cooperate with the ACU investigation once I’m medically fit to travel and have my visa in place for travel to Dubai.”

Due to his cricketing ties and background in the UAE, Chhayakar feels it is not unnatural that he would be linked to the UAE cricketers involved in the corruption allegations.

He has played against them at various tournaments and age levels and also works in sports equipment marketing, so feels he could easily have come into contact with them via his job.

Chhayakar, who was selected to represent the UAE at under-19 level in the ACC Elite Cup in 2012, said: “I’m into marketing of sports equipment. My course of business requires me to visit different countries in order to sell the products and give them international exposure.

Mehardeep Chhayakar insists he will fight to clear his name.

Mehardeep Chhayakar insists he will fight to clear his name.

“Since I’m playing cricket in UAE from a very young age and very reputed among the teams, the majority of UAE players are known to me, in fact I have played against most of them in various tournaments. If I’ve been in touch with any players it was solely in regards with cricket equipment.”

The ACU had been monitoring the UAE players in question since their tour of Zimbabwe in April this year, which is when Chhayakar’s name – he is said to be known in gambling circles as ‘Gary’ according to the ESPNcricinfo.com article – was mentioned.

But Chhayakar refuted any allegations of wrongdoing and insists he wasn’t detained by police, freely admitting he was in Zimbabwe on business. He said his ID – as well as those of others – was checked by police while he was having lunch.

He believes his name had been included because of his involvement in the Ajman tournament.

“They said my name is Gary in gambling circles. Just to make it clear, Gary is a family name and my friends call me by that,” added Chhayakar.

“The ACU has been trying to call me as a participant of a tournament which I played back in 2017. I wasn’t informed it was under the Ajman Cricket Council and that it falls under the anti-corruption code of conduct.

“I paid Dh300 to participate in that tournament. What I fail to understand is, if the tournament is under the Ajman Cricket Council, why should the players pay money from their own pocket to the organisers and get blamed later on for corrupting cricket?”

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