A MEMBER of India’s 2011 World Cup-winning squad is being probed for possible links to a match-fixing syndicate that organised a domestic T20 tournament in Jaipur last July, The Indian Express has learnt.
The tournament, Rajputana Premier League (RPL), had first come under BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Security Unit (ACSU) last year and is being investigated by Rajasthan Police’s CID. The RPL involved club cricketers and was telecast live on Neo Sports, the former rights-holders of Indian cricket.
Sources said Rajasthan Police have found that the mastermind of the “organised cricket racket” who partly bankrolled the RPL has business links with the former international player who represented India in all three formats of the game.
It is learnt that the former player had been spotted on the sidelines of the tournament that witnessed bizarre passages of play. For instance, sources said, a bowler conceded eight byes by bowling “blatant wides” in the final over of a tight contest. Subsequently, the BCCI requested Rajasthan Police to probe the league.
Police obtained information regarding the former player while questioning 14 persons arrested from four hotels in Jaipur last July for suspected betting and fixing activities linked to the RPL, including organisers, players, umpires and alleged bookies. Police said that cash, mobile phones, walkie-talkies and laptops were recovered from them.
While all those arrested are out on bail, the case was transferred to the CID last November.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Additional DGP CID (Crime) Pankaj Kumar Singh said they are following all leads. “We are currently probing links between private entities, those who are part of the cricket fraternity and officials. We will take action if there is evidence that links them to corruption,” he said.
However, Singh declined to discuss the involvement of the former India cricketer. Sources said investigators are banking on call detail records to connect the dots and hinted at the possibility of the case turning “high-profile”.
Of late, at least half-a-dozen “dubious” domestic T20 leagues, with modus operandi similar to the RPL, have seen the BCCI and police joining hands in investigation. According to investigators, these leagues resemble TV reality shows with virtually everyone involved — organisers, players and umpires — colluding with bookies who decide which way the matches would swing.
Sources said investigators have unearthed other details of the racket.
For instance, they said, a “spotter” or “handler” is stationed at a strategic spot just outside the ground to ensure that the pre-decided pattern of play is followed. They said the “spotter” conveys instructions from bookies through walkie-talkies used by field umpires, who inform the players.
Sleuths believe the organisers of such leagues make anything between Rs 2 crore to Rs 3 crore in a week.
Speaking to The Indian Express in February, when the ICC started investigating the role of Indian bookies and betting cartels in a UAE T20 league, the BCCI ACSU’s former chief and current advisor Neeraj Kumar warned about fly-by-night IPL offshoots.
“This is a new methodology bookies and fixers have come up with. They host a private T20 tournament, select a venue and arrange to have it telecast. Because if you telecast it, then the bookie community and betting community gets involved and everyone sitting in a drawing room can bet,” Kumar had said.
Last December, Kumar had pulled up the Indian board for what he described as a “cavalier” and “indifferent” approach towards having an adequately equipped ACSU. “Not even once can I recall a meeting in which you have chosen to discuss this issue. Not even once have I been asked what the magnitude of the problem is and what needs to be done,” he had written in an email to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri.
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