A blast from the past rocked Indian cricket on Monday as former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar claimed that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim had entered the Indian dressing room on the eve of the Australasia Cup final in 1986. Dawoodapparently offered a car to each player if they beat Pakistan the next day.
The reactions that followed Monday’s revelationwere even more interesting. Although TV channels had showed Vengsarkar making the sensational disclosure at a function in Jalgaon, when media contacted him, he vehemently denied making the statement. But Kapil Dev, the then captain, and Madan Lal, who was part of the squad, both separately confirmed to TOI that Dawood had indeed entered the dressing room.
The match itself is unforgettable for Indian cricket fans as it featured Javed Miandad’s last-ball six, which took Pakistan to a famous victory.
On TV, Vengsarkar was seen claiming that Dawood walked into the dressing room a day before the match and made the offer. He added that Dawood was introduced by famous Bollywood comedian Mehmood. “Mehmood was in our dressing room. Kapil Dev was not there at that time because he had gone out to address the press conference. No one recognised Dawood but I had seen his photographs. Mehmood introduced him to us as a big businessman from Sharjah. He also said Dawood wanted to announce a prize for us. He said, ‘If you beat Pakistan tomorrow, everyone will get a car’. Jayawant Lele was our manager then. He asked if he would also get a car and Dawood confirmed that he would,” Vengsarkar said.
However, when reporters contacted Vengsarkar, he denied the report. “This is all nonsense. I don’t know what the TV channels are up to. One news channel has recorded it and now other channels are picking it up. This is nothing but mischief and attempts to malign me. I have never said anything like this.”
Kapil Dev confirmed the news, but denied that Dawood had offered cars to the team. “I remember someone had come to meet a team member, but I told him he is not supposed to be here because this is the players’ dressing room. He immediately said sorry and went away. Later, I was told his name, which I heard for the first time. I don’t really remember anything beyond that,” Kapil said.
Madal Lal too endorsed Kapil’s statement. “I don’t understand why Dilip has talked about it after so long. If I recall correctly, a gentleman entered the dressing room and Kapil drove him away. I came to know only later that he was Dawood. I don’t recollect anything about cars being promised as I was training.”
Former Indian left-arm spinner Maninder Singh didn’t remember Dawood entering the dressing room, but recalled that the underworld don would attend parties along with the cricketers. “I didn’t know him till his pictures appeared in newspapers. He was there in parties, but I don’t remember seeing him in the dressing room,” said Maninder.
BJP MP Kirti Azad, who also played in the match, said, “I have no idea about this incident. I don’t remember seeing anyone in the dressing room because Kapil wouldn’t have allowed anyone inside. Why is the matter being raised now?