Harmeet Singh pleads innocence against spot-fixing charges
Harmeet Singh, an integral part of India’s Under-19 world cup winning campaign in 2012, has pleaded innocence against alleged charges of spot-fixing against him, while representing the Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals.
In an exclusive interview to Times of India, the left arm spinner revealed that most Rajasthan Royals’ players were scared to death after coming to know about the arrests of fellow cricketers Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan by the Delhi police during IPL-6.
The 20-year-old Mumbai player is forbidden from playing any form of cricket till he gets cleared of his charges by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
PV Shetty, Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) joint secretary, said: “We cannot have any discussion with him unless the board clears him and he gets an NOC from Vidarbha.”
Here are few extracts from his interview to TOI with Harmeet Singh.
Can you shed some light on what happened when you met the bookies in Mumbai, in the month of march?
Harmeet Singh: After a Times Shield game, I was supposed to have dinner with a friend called Hitesh and Ajit Chandila, who I knew for five years, since we both play for Air India. Chandila called us to a hotel in Bandra. He then asked me to meet his ‘cousins and friends’.
Just before entering their room, Chandila told me to nod and say ‘yes’ to whatever they would say. Before I could ask him why, he pulled me inside the room and introduced me to his ‘cousins’- there were three of them.
They were wearing fancy gold chains and rings and that made me a bit suspicious. They asked me to ‘gain a bit of experience by playing in three-four games for the Rajasthan Royals’. I realised what they were hinting at.
I sternly told them: ‘I am not into all this’ and they seemed to have got the message. Chandila then told them: ‘Don’t worry…Ankeet (Chavan) and Sreesanth are with us’.
I was stunned to hear those names. I had known Ankeet for a long time and couldn’t believe he would do something like this. Sreesanth was an India player. Why would he indulge in all this, I thought?
While driving back, I asked him what was all this about. I also told him that I didn’t want to make money like this. He clarified: ‘I know them for long…they were just kidding. Don’t worry. You don’t have to do anything.’ Today, I fear that those three-four minutes in that room may just destroy my career.
Why didn’t you complain to any authorities about such an approach being made?
HS: I trusted Chandila when he said it was a joke. Sometimes, friends do say these things in a light-hearted way. I too was conscious about not putting anyone who is innocent in trouble. But I chose to keep my distance from him after this incident.
I thought if I saw this guy was doing any hanky-panky in the IPL, I would report him. Honestly, he did nothing that appeared suspicious. He bowled well, except in the game against Pune Warriors, which came under the scanner eventually.
Sreesanth’s friend Jiju Janardhan used to be with us in the team room, but since he had been a cricketer himself, I had no clue about stuff that emerged later. Then, all hell broke loose when three players from our team were arrested in Mumbai. We were scared to death.
All the players were insecure. Since Chandila had taken a few other players, especially foreigners, in our team to a few parties, I thought if even one player reports an approach, I would reveal my case to back him up. But I was too petrified about approaching anyone.
So when did you finally get in touch with the cops?
HS: When false stories began circulating about my so-called meeting with the bookies. I contacted RR CEO Raghu Iyer, who told me to speak to ACSU (Anti-Corruption Security Unit) chief Ravi Sawani. He set up my meeting with Delhi Police, who were very kind to me.
They told me right away: ‘We know you are clean. You have said ‘no’ to the bookies. We just need you to be a witness so that we can punish the guilty.’ They wanted to slap MCOCA on the bookies. I identified two of the bookies, whom I had ended up meeting in Mumbai and gave my statement.
I asked them to give me a letter about my innocence. I then recorded a similar statement in front of Sawani in Mumbai.
Have you been worn down by these events?
HS: I am a God-fearing Sikh and I know I am clean. What matters is that my family believes in me.