ON WEDNESDAY night, in a joint operation with Kanpur Police, the Indian cricket board’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) nabbed three persons for their alleged role in a betting racket. Two of the arrested were identified as Mumbai-based bookies. The third was an unusual catch: an accredited vendor whose job was to move around the boundary lines and keep an eye on the advertising posters during IPL games.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the BCCI’s ACSU chief Neeraj Kumar said, “The vendor, Ramesh Singh, used to pass on match-related information to the two bookies, Nayan Shah and Vikas Chauhan. First-hand information can be of big help to bookies.”
Apart from the three, the joint raid at a room in the IPL team hotel in Kanpur, at a time when Gujarat Lions and Delhi Daredevils were involved in a close but inconsequential game at the Green Park Stadium, also netted a laptop, four mobile phones and Rs 5 lakh in cash.
Sources say the nabbing of Singh, described as the first ever arrest of a BCCI-verified vendor with proximity to team dugouts and the field, underlines the meticulous tactics of bookies who decide the odds for a worldwide illegal network.
Insiders say every little bit of information from Ground Zero can alter the odds in a game which, in turn, decide the quantum of profit or loss bookies make. According to a former ACSU chief, the annual worth of global cricket betting is the range of $40-$50 billion. The IPL is said to be the most popular tournament among bookies and punters.
“For people like Ramesh, their greatest strength is their stadium access. Before the match, they have details about net sessions, pitch preparation and dimensions of the ground. Once the match starts, they can pass on information about who is warming up and thus is expected to bat or bowl next. They can also notice what’s going down at the dugouts, which can give a clue about a team’s moves… all that TV doesn’t show or gets lost during advertising breaks,” said the retired ACSU official.
Kumar, a former Delhi Police commissioner, said they had been keeping a close watch on Singh for a while. “He stays in Kanpur but hails from Bihar. What made Ramesh a suspect was his frequent presence at the team hotel. The bookies were staying at the hotel where the teams are put up. Kanpur Police will now conduct further investigations,” he said.
“What is pleasing for us is that this was an operation developed and led by the anti-corruption unit of the BCCI. Our emphasis has been on field work and human networking,” Kumar said.
PTI adds: It has been learnt from the BCCI sources that Ramesh had “promised” the bookie Shah that he has contacts among groundsmen, who can pour more water on the 22-yard surface to tinker with the playing conditions. “Although Ramesh had nothing to do with pitch preparation activity, he had bragged to the bookie that his access to Green Park groundsmen will help him tamper with the pitch. Additional water would make the pitch damp and it would be a low-scoring affair,” a BCCI source told the news agency.