Delhi Police’s top officer Ishwar Singh, whose chance tapping of a telephonic conversation involving South Africa captain Hansie Cronje opened a Pandora box on cricket match-fixing in 2000, retires on Thursday “absolutely satisfied” after an eventful 38-year-two-month-long service.
Singh, 60, retires as Assistant Commissioner of Police (Southwest district, New Delhi), and after attending multiple farewell parties on Thursday, he will soon head to his paternal home in Igrah village in Jind district of Haryana to spend some time with his aged parents.
Singh has effectively been out of home for 50 years, since joining the Sainik School in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, in 1970, with a desire to join the Indian Army. That, however, never happened.
Singh, a sub-inspector in 2000, became a globally recognised name after the Hansie Cronje scandal rocked and shook the cricket world.
Many years later, he was part of the pilot security entourage of American President Barack Obama on his India visit in 2010, and won a certificate of appreciation from the American Embassy.
“I am absolutely satisfied with what I have done in my career. I have helped solve so many other cases during my long service. But as far as getting popularity is concerned, the Hansie Cronje case got me the most,” Singh told IANS.
“I have been out of my home since 1970, when I got admission to Sainik School in Bhubanewar with a dream of joining Indian Army. I returned from there in 1977 and completed my graduation from Kurukshetra University. Then, I joined Delhi Police as a sub-inspector on October 22, 1982,” he said.
“After I retire at midnight on Thursday — after ensuring potential New Year revellers are confined to their homes — I will have a party with my Delhi Police colleagues before finally hanging up my boots.
“My immediate plan is to go to my village and spend some time with my parents, both are 86 years old.”
Singh has two sons. The elder one runs a business and the younger one works in Mumbai.
Former Delhi Commissioner of Police Neeraj Kumar, who filed the much-delayed charge sheet in the Cronje case in 2013, called Singh’s role in cricket match-fixing “monumental”.
“He is a very talented police detective. Nobody would ever know his real contribution to unravelling corruption in cricket. His contribution is monumental, I should say, and for all times to come it should be remembered, though people tend to forget such things.
“Besides the Cronje case, he has resolved many other cases. With his retirement, a batch of talented detectives would have faded into the sunset,” Kumar, who was Delhi Commissioner of Police from 2012 to 2013, told IANS.
“If anybody has any consideration for merit, whether it is the International Cricket Council (ICC) or the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), or any other body fighting corruption in cricket, it should take him and make use of his knowledge.
“He has vast knowledge in this area of specialisation. Since his name is well-known in this field, people still approach him (with information). He has a wide network of informants, and he knows a hell of a lot about cricket,” said the 67-year-old former top cop.
The ICC, in fact, had recognised Singh’s contribution in his field more than 19 years ago. It was keen to hire Singh in 2001 when it established an Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) in the aftermath of the Hansie Cronje scandal, but his fondness for the ï¿½uniform’ and a desire to remain with Delhi Police’s Crime Branch made Singh decline the offer.
“In 2001, the ICC unofficially made an offer to me to join its ACU, soon after the Crojne scandal. I was in my late 30s at the time, so I didn’t accept it as I wanted to continue working with the Crime Branch of Delhi Police. I got a thrill while dealing with cases in the Crime Branch,” discloses Singh. After Singh declined the offer, the ICC hired Niranjan Singh Virk, who was also with Delhi Police at the time.
During his eventful career, Singh has seen a variety of incidents — from witnessing the gruesome Sikh riots in 1984, soon after he joined the Delhi Police, to being part of a team that busted a gang of persons of the Pardi tribe from Madhya Pradesh who had been operating in Delhi and had committed “18 murders”.
“Everyone talks about the cricket match-fixing scandal that I unearthed. But no one talks about the other cases that I resolved,” Singh says with a tinge of sadness.
“For example, I was part of a team that busted a gang that had kidnapped six children. One of the children rescued remained in touch with me over the years and even invited me to his wedding.”
One of the most thrilling moments for Singh was being part of the pilot entourage of former US President Obama when he visited India around Diwali in November 2010.
“I received a letter and a certificate of appreciation from the American Department of State, praising the job that I and the Delhi Police team had done,” he proudly informs.
The letter of American Embassy’s Counsellor for regional Security addressed to Singh read: “Thank you again for your extraordinary efforts. You and your officers did a very difficult job very well and my office is in your debt.”
Another high for Singh came in 2001, after the match-fixing scandal, when the then Delhi Commissioner of Police, Ajay Raj Sharma, handpicked him to visit and bring back to India the murderers of two famous personalities after their extradition process was completed.
Another big win for Singh was the extradition of Sanjeev Chawla, a British national allegedly involved the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal and named in the Delhi Police charge sheet filed by Neeraj Kumar on his last day in office on July 30, 2013. Chawla was extradited to India in February 2020.
The Cronje case remains Singh’s biggest catch in terms of popularity that brought him global recognition, though professionally he has been involved in successfully cracking many tougher cases that needed bravery and intelligence, including one of the encounter of a dacoit in Kalindi Colony, south Delhi, following theft of high value jewellery.