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When Dawood Ibrahim entered the Indian team's dressing room in Sharjah in 1987

Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar, while addressing a gathering at Jalgaon yesterday, reportedly revealed that underworld king Dawood Ibrahim, entered the Indian team’s dressing room, offering the players cars if they won the Sharjah Cup in 1987. The offer was turned down by the team and Pakistan went on to beat India.

Dawood Ibrahim
Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim at a cricket match in Sharjah in the 1980s

Kapil’s return
Meanwhile, a player from that Indian team told MiD DAY that skipper Kapil Dev discovered there were two ‘visitors’ — actor Mehmood and Dawood — in the dressing room on his return from a media conference. Since the captain wanted to have a team meeting before the important final clash against Pakistan, he asked the duo to leave. It is then learnt that a snubbed Dawood walked out and uttered to Mehmood: “car cancel.”

Late BCCI secretary J Y Lele, who accompanied the team as assistant manager to Dnyaneshwar Agashe, wrote in his autobiography that India won the first game against Pakistan, lost the second game to Australia and won the third against England. Lele got it wrong here because India won their first two games against England and Australia before meeting Pakistan in a match which Imran Khan’s team won by eight wickets.

Nevertheless, here is Lele’s version in his book I Was There — memories of a cricket administrator (published by The Marine Sports in 2011): “Before the next game, a gentleman waited outside the Indian dressing room. We were told that a wealthy industrialist in Sharjah wanted to meet us. When Agashe and I went out, he greeted us and introduced himself.


The prize? A 1987 model Toyota car. Picture used for representation purpose only

He said he was a great fan of the game and particularly the Indian team, and witnessed every match there. “We learnt from him that he was originally Indian. He said he wished India would win the tournament. “Agar yahan India ki team champion hoti hai, toh main team ke har bachche ko, aur officials ko, Toyota car inaam doonga!

Aur woh bhi India mein har ek ke ghar par pahuncha diya jayega (if the Indian team becomes the champion here, I shall present a Toyota car to each team member, including officials, at their doorsteps in India). “As bad luck would have it, India lost the tournament! Australia were declared champions on the basis of a higher run-rate, as Australia, England and India had earned equal points!

After the results were declared, most team members were not in tears, but that man was! After a long gap, we came to know that the man, who had met us in Sharjah in 1987 was Dawood Ibrahim, the alleged mastermind of the dastardly Mumbai blasts in 1993!

The matter of that contact with us somehow surfaced during police investigations (during the match fixing scandal of 2000) and I was taken aback! When the police interrogated me, I trembled. However, I frankly and matter-of-fact admitted we met, and told them that at that time we had naturally no idea about his background or future activities and even did not know his name.

Lele’s police story
“I added that I had met the man there for the first and last time and I had even forgotten the incident. I could not have recognised him thereafter! The police fortunately believed me. I realised that though I was fairly disappointed about losing the Toyota, this was a much greater prize for me.”

Meanwhile, Kapil Dev declined to comment on Vengsarkar’s revelations. “I have no idea of this. I would not like to talk about it over the phone,” he told MiD DAY.  In the tournament’s final match which Pakistan won, Vengsarkar won the match of the match award for his 95 not out in a total of 183. Pakistan achieved the target in 41.4 overs with eight wickets to spare.  

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