Former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar has brought out in the open what was discussed in private till now. The stylish right-hander of yesteryear has admitted that gangster Dawood Ibrahim had access to the Indian dressing room during several tournaments in the 1980s.
Participating in a Marathi talk show in Jalgaon on Monday, Vengsarkar reportedly said that Dawood Ibrahim had entered the Indian dressing room during a tournament in Sharjah in 1987, but was booted out by then captain Kapil Dev.
Recalling that incident, Vengsarkar said that a day before an India-Pakistan match at the Australasia Cup, actor Mehmood had brought a man into the Indian dressing room.
"Mehmood came and was sitting in the dressing room. Kapil was addressing a press conference outside. No one recognised him (Dawood), but I had seen his picture and since he was with Mehmood, I thought this could be him," Vengsarkar said.
He added that Mehmood also concealed Dawood’s identity and introduced him as a businessman from Sharjah who had a big offer for the team.
"Dawood said 'if you defeat Pakistan tomorrow, everyone will get a car ’. At that time Jaywant Lele was our manager, he asked (Dawood) 'I am the manager, will I also get one?’ "Dawood replied, yes, you will also get one," Vengsarkar said.
In response to a question about the brand of the car that was offered, Vengsarkar said: "It was a Toyota Corolla, very famous at that time." However, when Kapil entered the dressing room after his press conference, he was in for a shock.
"Kapil came inside the dressing room and said he wanted to talk to the players, and asked both Mehmood and Dawood to leave.
"He said: "Mehmood saab aap zara bahar niklo, aur yeh kaun hai (pointing towards Dawood)? Chal bahar chal. Dawood then left the dressing room," Vengsarkar recalled.
According to the former middle-order batsman, Dawood didn’t take kindly to Kapil shooing him out of the room.
"Dawood got upset due to this treatment and when he went outside the room, he said, 'eh car cancel haan’." That’s not all, according to Vengsarkar, Pakistan cricketer Javed Miandad came to the dressing room to complain about Kapil treating Dawood in such a manner.
"Yaar usko (Kapil) pata nahi woh Dawood Ibrahim hai, Usko kuch problem karega (Kapil does not know that he is Dawood Ibrahim, he could create problems for Kapil)," Miandad said, according to Vengsarkar.
To this Vengsarkar had replied: "No one can create problems for Kapil whether in India or outside." Incidentally the incident finds mention in Jaywant Lele’s book, I was There — Memoirs of a Cricket Administrator. When contacted by Mail Today, Kapil denied knowing anything about the offer of a car, but admitted that Miandad was present in the dressing room when he walked in after addressing a press conference.
"Yes, I remember a gentleman walking into our dressing room in a game in Sharjah and wanting to talk to the players.
But I immediately asked him to leave as outsiders were not allowed there. He listened to me and then walked out of the dressing room without saying anything.
"Later, someone told me he was a smuggler from Bombay and his name was Dawood Ibrahim. Beyond that nothing happened," he said.
But Kapil said that he wasn’t aware of Toyota cars being offered to the players.
"No such offer came to my knowledge then. If Dilip is saying it now, he would know more than me." This incident occurred when Dawood was yet to become India’s most wanted terrorist after engineering the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts.
R AVI Shastri had more to offer.
He revealed that when Kapil came to know that it was Dawood who had come to the dressing room, he went to him and apologised.
"Yes, he (Dawood) used to come. He (Dawood) came to the dressing room in Sharjah. I came to know early and sneaked out to have tea. Kapil stood up and asked him 'who are you? please go out.’ "Then Kapil came to know, went to him and apologised," Shastri laughed.
Even Maninder Singh, who was part of that team, admitted that Dawood was a common visitor at not only every match played in Sharjah, but also at the parties organised for participating teams.
"While I don’t really remember the dressing room episode in 1987, maybe I wasn’t there at that point of time when he came in, but I can tell you that he was present in almost all the parties that the teams attended in Sharjah.
"But back then, we didn’t really know that things like fixing existed. Also, there weren’t things like the anti-corruption unit and stuff, so access to players’ dressing room wasn’t that difficult as it is now," the former left-arm spinner told Mail Today.
However, when Mail Today contacted Vengsarkar on Monday, he retracted his statement and said someone had cooked up the whole episode. "It seems as if someone is playing mischief with my statement at the Marathi talk show in Jalgaon," he said.