A wider, more vicious bookie-cricketer nexus is emerging from the Delhi police probe into the IPL spot-fixing expose, with the Special Cell investigators chasing two members of the Ranji-level Vidarbha cricket team who had allegedly initiated prime accused Ajit Chandila into the shady world of gambling.
Preliminary probe reveals that Chandila, one of the three Rajasthan Royals players arrested on Thursday along with 11 bookies for spot-fixing IPL matches, has revealed to investigators that his induction into the match-fixing circuit happened through a Nagpur-based cricketer whom he introduced as “Manish”, a “friend” of his.
He also disclosed that Manish represents the Vidarbha cricket team. Manish had another pal by the name of “Babu”, who too represents Vidarbha cricket team, he said.
The off-spinner from Haryana, believed to be a key figure among the arrested trio, claimed that he was lured into spot-fixing with the promise of a quick buck if he underperformed as and when told. He is said to have confessed that he took up the offer and met bookies to realise his dream of making a lot of money.
Special Cell sleuths are trying to verify the Haryana lad’s preliminary claims on his links with the Vidarbha cricketers. A Delhi police source said the sleuths would continue questioning Haryana Ranji player Chandila, selected to play in the Rajasthan Royals team from the 2011-12 edition of the IPL, to extract more information to help unravel the truth about “Manish” and “Babu“, and their identities, as they do not rule out that these could be pet names.
Attempts to verify Chandila’s disclosure through publicly-available information revealed that a player by one of these two names – Manish and Babu – had played for Vidarbha team but had retired from first class cricket a long time ago.
Vidarbha Cricket Association President Prakash Dixit was clueless when asked whether Delhi police had approached him for help to track down two players suspected to be involved in the spot-fixing scandal.
“I don’t recall anyone by the name of Manish or Babu playing for the Vidarbha team. Even otherwise, there are no players from the team shortlisted by any IPL franchise,” Dixit clarified when the names were read out to him.
He, however, said that he would try to find out from the association if ever players with similar names had represented Vidarbha.
Meanwhile, though Delhi police commissioner Neraj Kumar has denied more players’ link to the scandal, sources said that investigation has only just started and more sensational revelation on underworld linkages and other muck are likely come out soon.
Police said Chandila had become so confident about the issue that he would invite other players to attend parties thrown by his friend bookies. Delhi Police have obtained a list of players who accepted expensive gifts from punters, which is an inducement to eventually solicit information that is vital to spot-fixing – a phenomenon that has been in existence for more than a decade but under the glossy label of “fancy betting”.
Coming from a humble middle class family of Prahaladpur in Faridabad – a district in Haryana bordering Delhi – Chandila had played four matches for the Rajasthan Royals and was hired on contract basis for Rs 30 lakh. A Delhi Police team went to his native place on Saturday to question his family members on his contacts and bank balance.
The bowler has been suspended from Air India, which had employed him as Customer Service Supervisor under the sports quota, on the day police held a press conference to announce his arrest for fixing events in matches, like bowling wides or no balls, bowling a loose delivery that would be hit for runs, getting out easily as batsmen or slowing down their scoring rates, which can be easily passed off as innocent occurrences.
The direct cash benefits are in multiples of deliberate underperforming acts by a player, which a police officer has termed as “value-added fixing”.