Two Karnataka Premier League franchisees whose names have cropped up prominently in the ongoing match-fixing scandal in the T20 tournament, and who allegedly influenced cricketers CM Gautam and Abrar Kazi to fix matches, also own teams in the T10 League in Abu Dhabi that have some of international cricket’s biggest names on their roasters.
Gautam, a former Karnataka Ranji captain, and Kazi, another Ranji player from the state, were arrested on Thursday on the charges of fixing as many as four KPL matches in 2018 and 2019.
A day later, the Bengaluru police said the duo did so at the insistence of Belagavi Panthers’ owner Asfak Ali Thara, who was nabbed in September in the KPL fixing racket, and Bellary Tuskers’ Arvind Venkatesh Reddy , who has been questioned by the police.Thara was identified as the co-owner of the Kerala Knights team in the ICC-approved T10 league.
Some of the players in the squad included England limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow, and West Indies’ T20 guns for hire, Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard. While the Knights disassociated themselves from Thara after his arrest, Reddy remains the co-owner of the Karnataka Tuskers team (previously known as Rajputs), which has on its payrolls names such as South Africa’s Hashim Amla, West Indies’s Evin Lewis and Marlon Samuels. The Knights do not feature in the 2019 edition of the league, which begins on November 14 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
According to a preliminary investigation report of the Bengaluru crime branch police on the arrest of Gautam, captain of Bellary in the KPL T20 tournament, and Kazi, an all rounder for the same team, the duo conspired with team owners and bookies to fix matches.
In one instance of alleged spot-fixing, Belagavi owner Asfak Ali Thara offered Gautam Rs 7.5 lakh to get a bowler to give more than 10 runs in an over during a game between Bellary and Bengaluru Blasters.
Gautam, a seasoned hand who has also played for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians in the IPL, allegedly set up a deal with the off-spinner Kazi during a practice session ahead of the match. Kazi was given an advance of Rs 2.5 lakh for the job. During the match Kazi gave 11 runs — including two wides — when brought on to bowl his first over of the game, the match records reveal (KPL 2019, 12th game).
In the final of KPL 2019, Gautam was allegedly asked by Thara to bat slowly during his innings. Gautam scored 29 of 37 balls and Bellary lost the game by eight runs while chasing a target of 152 set by the Hubli Tigers. According to police, Gautam received Rs 15 lakh as payment from Thara as part of the deal.
In two other games — Game 19 of the 2019 season against Mysuru Warriors and Game 21 of the 2018 season — Gautam was asked by his own team owner Reddy to under perform, the Bengaluru police have alleged.
The crime branch police have also identified Amit Mavi, a small-time cricketer, as being a key intermediary between the bookies, the owners and the players in the fixing scandal.
“C M Gautam, his team mate Abrar Kazi along with Ali Asfak Thara, Arvind Reddy, Amit Mavi and others have indulged in cheating in the 2019 edition of the KPL and have earned money through illegal means,” the crime branch police have said the report.
Thara, 40, was arrested by the police for placing bets on KPL matches with a Dubai-based bookie. He is alleged to have influenced many other players in the KPL to participate in the fixing racket.
Thara, a travel and tours businessman with business interests in Dubai, and Reddy, 45, a real estate businessman, purchased Belagavi and Bellary, respectively, in 2017. Reddy later roped in the Kannada film actress Ragini Dwivedi as co-owner of Bellary.
Reddy’s association with the T10 League began in 2018 when he bought stakes in the Rajputs, which has Brendon McCullum as captain and icon player. This year Amla is captain and icon player of the rebranded side.