Kanga League, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA)’s famous local tournament, finds itself in the middle of a controversy involving allegations of match-fixing and manipulation as an ‘A’ division game between Muslim United and Apollo at Islam Gymkhana is under the scanner.
Two clubs have written a letter to MCA alleging match fixing took place to help avoid relegation. The Karnatak Sporting Association and Sainath Sports Club have written a letter asking the MCA to probe and initiate action against the teams that are alleged of “fixing the game.”
In a letter sent by both the clubs, which is in possession of The Indian Express, KSA secretary Jaya Shetty wrote to the MCA saying, “The concluding match of this season created a bad name to tournament by fixing a crucial match to avoid relegation to lower division (Sic).”
On November 8, Kanga League played out its last game after which teams faced relegation. The controversy broke out soon after Apollo fielded only eight players for the last game. It’s a team looked after by former Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni.
Shetty in his letter writes, “Apollo scored a paltry 88 runs in the first innings was replied by MU 288, declared, in second innings. Apollo all out for very small total, in result Muslim United registered innings win over the opponent to grab maximum points to avoid relegation to ‘B division. Apollo team position was already confirmed for relegation (Sic).”
Interestingly, three days before the Kanga league final games were about to be played, Sainath CC cricket secretary Ajay Seth in his letter to MCA joint secretary Unmesh Khanvilkar and PV Shetty had warned about the possibility of a team manipulating match results. MCA had especially appointed the best of their umpires and even deputed an observer for the match. MCA joint secretary Shetty confirmed that Sainath CC had warned about some suspicious activity three days before the game was to take place which would help one team retain their place in the A division.
“The matter was heard then and we were even informed about the result of this particular game. The matter will now be placed in front of the Kanga league committee and managing committee which will decide the further course of action,” Shetty said.
When contacted, Seth explained that what had surprised him was that a team like Muslim United which had not taken three points even once in entire tournament till this game, had suddenly scored an outright game. “Did Apollo play the same players from Game 1 to Game 13? It was very clear from the start of the match that Apollo will loose with a bonus point despite of sending an observer. Apollo played with the boys who’ve never played the Kanga league which clearly indicates that this match was manipulated and fixed by both the teams,” Seth said.
However, Kulkarni denied all charges and said that in cricket anything can happen. He denied any manipulation and informed that nearly three players didn’t play because they were not feeling well.
“We played with eleven players but two of my players Ankit Shastri and Sunil Yadav fell sick during the game. I too was not well but still I came to the ground. Anything can happen in cricket. We did not play with junior cricketers. We gave chance to those who had not got games as irrespective of the result, we were going to be relegated. All these allegations are false and baseless,” Kulkarni stated.
In his report to MCA, match observer Vishwas Nerurkar wrote that all batsmen of the Apollo team who batted went for the big shots to get the runs faster and did not intend to stay on the wicket for long time. “In the bargain they lost all wickets in 86 runs within 16 overs in just an hour.”
In his report, he further stated, two nominated players Shastri and Sunil Yadav supposed to be “injured and/or not well” were in the pavilion throughout the match and did not bat or field in both innings inspite the umpires asking about their participation.
“How can you prove that match was fixed?” Iqbal Thakur of Muslim United said. “There was an observer and an umpire, and if they had felt anything was suspicious they should have stopped play. 16 wickets felt of Apollo against us as two of them were not feeling well. Tell me can’t 16 wickets fall in cricket? These are mere allegations without any proof. If MCA knew about this then they should have done something about it. We also hear so many things about this team and that match but these are allegations with no head or tail,” he added.