LAHORE: Pakistan umpire Asad Rauf Wednesday denied spot-fixing allegations made against him during the Indian Premier League, as Delhi's sports ministry urged India's powerful cricket chief to quit pending an inquiry into the scandal.
Indian media accused Rauf of involvement in the fixing controversy engulfing the megabucks Twenty20 competition and the sport's governing body pulled him from next month's Champions Trophy amid reports he was under police investigation.
The scandal is threatening to bring down N. Srinivasan, the head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), who has been under intense pressure after his son-in-law was arrested for allegedly betting on IPL games.
Delhi's sports ministry Wednesday turned up the heat on Srinivasan, widely seen as one of the most powerful men in world cricket, demanding he resign on moral grounds.
Media in India alleged Rauf had been in contact with Bollywood actor Vindu Dara Singh Randhawa, arrested on charges of acting as middleman between bookies, players and officials, but the 57-year-old Wednesday insisted he was innocent.
“I vehemently deny allegations of match-fixing, spot-fixing, taking gifts (from bookmakers) and any illegal money,” Rauf said at a press conference in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, his first public statement since news of the scandal broke.
“I am ready to face any inquiry if the ICC's anti-corruption unit wants to conduct any.” The investigations started on May 16 when Delhi police arrested three cricketers including Test fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, accusing them of deliberately bowling badly in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars during the lucrative IPL.
The BCCI has set up a three-member commission to investigate complaints against Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, an executive at the Chennai Super Kings IPL team -- owned by Srinivasan's India Cements.
“The ministry of youth affairs and sports has observed with considerable disquiet, the reports about match- and spot-fixing in cricket,” said a statement from the sports ministry headed by Jitendra Singh.
“As there is a conflict of interest in this inquiry, therefore BCCI President should tender his resignation on moral grounds, pending the outcome of the inquiry.” Srinivasan, 68, said he would not interfere with the probe committee, comprising two former high court judges and BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale.
“I have already made it very clear that I will have nothing to do with the investigating commission. The probe commission is independent,” he told reporters in Mumbai.
Srinivasan, elected as BCCI president in 2011, has been resisting pressure to step down and can only be sacked if two thirds of the board's members vote against him.
Meiyappan's arrest followed similar action against World Cup-winning pace bowler Sreesanth and two teammates in his IPL franchise the Rajasthan Royals -- Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila. All four are being held in custody.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has distanced itself from the controversy, saying Rauf was under ICC control and the event was held in India, but assured action would be taken against him if the governing body ordered it.
Rauf, on the Elite Panel since 2006 with 48 Tests, 98 one-day internationals and 23 Twenty20 internationals to his name, said he had never been interested in fixing or backhanders.
“Fixing, illegal money and gifts have never been my topic, nor my target. These allegations have no truth and this is all,” he said.
Rauf clarified his pull-out from the Champions Trophy, saying he was only withdrawn from the tournament and not removed from the panel of top umpires approved to stand in Tests and one-day internationals.
“The ICC took the decision in the best interests of the game and for me, and I accept that,” he said.