Controversy has once against struck the Indian Premier League (IPL), this time with a case of spot-fixing being slapped against three Rajasthan Royals players – seamer S Sreesanth and spinners Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila. The trio was arrested on Thursday along with 11 other bookies for alleged spot-fixing and were sent to five-day police custody by the Delhi police. They have all been charged under Section 420 (cheating) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
Recorded conversations between the players and the bookies point out the specific signals used to indicate a fixed ball/over such as tucking in a hand towel in the front side or wearing a watch. The player then goes on to concede more than say 12 runs in that over as decided by the bookie.
According to sources, both Sreesanth and Chavan admitted to the allegations while being interrogated today. Both of them said that they had made a big mistake and sources say that Sreesanth even broke down while confessing that Jiju Janardhan (a bookie) lured him into it. Meanwhile Chandila’s lawyer insisted that he had been trapped by the Delhi Police. Former all rounder Sanjay Bangar said that “most of these players have never really tasted big time success in their cricketing experiences as such. So it’s very easy for them to get carried away by the kind of lifestyle that, as part of IPL, they are able to experience. So money is always a lure.” He added that “what is more appalling is that these are Ranji players and one has played Test cricket,” which the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief, N Srinivasan also pointed out in a press release.
In addition, one of the bookies arrested, Amit Singh, is a former Rajasthan Royals player who played for the franchise from 2009- 2012 and has now been suspended. Singh allegedly was the middleman who scouted for vulnerable players and connected them with the bookies. Former cricketer and national coach, Anshuman Gaekwad remembers having worked with Singh (also a Gujarat Ranji Trophy player) and coaching him for four years. “He was a simpleton, hardworking and sincere. I have absolutely no idea how he got involved in all of this. It’s really very unfortunate even with these three players. A Ranji player easily makes anything from Rs 30-40lakhs a season and Sreesanth must have made about Rs 1 crore. It must be like a maneater’s taste for blood. Once you’ve had it, you want more,” he says.
Preliminary investigations once again raked up the D-company connections, tracking calls through Pakistan and Dubai – where the hub of fixing is said to be. Sources say that Chandila today claimed he was being threatened by the underworld. Gaekwad, however, rubbishes the claim saying that “the underworld simply has to spot the vulnerable players and buy them out. I wouldn’t believe this allegation.”
Investigations now hint at a bigger ring of match-fixing at play. “Illegal betting to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore cannot be raised without there being other ways to reroute the money like the arms and drugs trade, the underworld and to some extent even political patronage. Bring in the National Investigative Agency and Interpol like the London police acted in the case of Pakistan’s match fixing case in 2010. Otherwise they will just be let off easy. Look what happened in the previous spot-fixing cases, some were let off with a ban of two years, some with five, they need to face a life ban,” says former player and member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad, Kirti Azad.
Alternatively, Bangar suggest that a possible additional deterrent would be to “get the players to sign an undertaking that if found guilty, not only would they be fined but would have to give up their previous payment over the last two-three years.” With a spot-fixing case to its name last year and many more controversies, IPL has now drawn the wrath of parties like JDU calling for the event to be disbanded.
But Gaekwad disagrees. “IPL gives younger players the chance to play with the big guys, it’s an opportunity. It’s the system that needs to be cleaned up. In the 2000 match fixing case against Azharuddin, Ajay Sharma and Ajay Jadeja, the popularity of the game suffered but we got back interest. The conscience of some players should not reflect on the whole platform or game.”
Just a day after the spot-fixing scandal broke, the Tamil Nadu police took four bookies into custody after conducting searches in Chennai. According to the Delhi Police’s investigations, other cases of match fixing are being reviewed. Among them is the 3 May Kolkata Knight Riders versus Rajasthan Royals for which, team owners Raj Kundra, Shilpa Shetty and captain Rahul Dravid are likely to be questioned. After assuring that the strictest action will be taken against those guilty, the BCCI has convened an emergency working committee meeting on 19 May to discuss the issue.