Sharma allegations 'beaten out of witness'

Indian investigators have rejected claims that a groundsman named in the inquiry into cricket match-fixing was beaten into saying that he had doctored a Test match pitch.

Indian investigators have rejected claims that a groundsman named in the inquiry into cricket match-fixing was beaten into saying that he had doctored a Test match pitch.

According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last week, Ram Adhar said former Test cricketer Ajay Sharma gave him 50,000 rupees (£740) to prepare a result-oriented pitch for the India v Australia game in New Delhi in 1996.

But Adhar, the groundsman at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground, said CBI officers had beaten him and forced him to make a false confession. "They were hitting me on my legs with a stick and threatening me. I confessed to save myself from the torture," he said.

However, CBI spokesman S M Khan said: "That's wrong. If we had hit him he should have complained about it before. He made his statement freely and without coercion."

Adhar said he had only been approached for information about the pitch by Sharma, and denied taking any money from him.

He said he was taken to Delhi's Raj Ghat, a riverside memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, in 1996. "I went with him [Sharma] because I had known him for a long time," said Adhar, who has spent more than 25 years at the Kotla ground.

"He introduced me to a friend of his. They made me sit in their car and asked me how the pitch would play. I told them it would play fast. They wanted to know if it would help spinners."

Adhar said he told them the nature of the wicket depended on the chief groundsman for the match. "They dropped me back after that. They did not offer me any money. I swear I received no money from them," he said.

However, Sharma claimed the incident never took place. "I did not take any groundsman in my car," he said. "In fact I don't even know who he is. I might know him by face, but I cannot place the name."

* Brian Lara has been named in the West Indies team for the opening game of their three-match tour of Australia in Perth, but the veteran paceman Courtney Walsh is being rested. Lara had originally planned to miss today's charity match against the Australian Cricket Board's Chairman's XI at Lilac Hill.

Walsh, the world record holder for Test wickets, will play in West Indies' second match against Western Australia. The ACB Chairman's side includes the former Australian Test batsman David Boon.

ACB CHAIRMAN'S XI (from): T M Moody (capt), A C Gilchrist (wkt), J Angel, G S Blewett, D C Boon, G B Hogg, S Karpinnen, S M Katich, J L Langer, D R Martyn, S Nikitaras, M Whitney.

WEST INDIES (from): J C Adams (capt), S L Campbell, D Ganga, B C Lara, W W Hinds, R Sarwan, R D Jacobs (wkt), M V Nagamootoo, N A M McLean, M Dillon, K C B Jeremy, M I Black.

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