More KPL dirt coming out

With eight cricket professionals and bookies in their net, police are confident of cracking an international betting racket with its nerve centre in Bengaluru

The arrest of eight people in a sensational cricket betting scandal exposes a murky Bengaluru racket with links across the world. The scam is connected to the Karnataka Premier League (KPL), a tournament on the lines of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The matches were held in August and the police started digging out scam details towards the end of September. “This is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s more to come,” Kuldeep Kumar R Jain, DCP Crime, Bengaluru City told Metrolife. The investigation was started after the crime branch of the city police got tip-offs about match-and spot-fixing during the KPL matches. “We had concrete information about players and owners involved in spot-fixing. We watched a few matches and began questioning people,” Kuldeep says. Big money involved Three categories of professionals are involved: bookies, brokers and cricketers. “The player executes it, the bookie gives the contract, and middlemen ensures the deal is executed as planned,” explains another senior officer involved in the investigation. The bookies use social media, advertising agencies and even the players’ support staff to contact the players. The money made from just one match runs into crores, police say. Hotspots of betting Bookies plan their deals at airport lounges, five-star hotels and hangouts near the cricket stadiums. “There are many levels. International bookies have representatives at the national level and they are in turn connected to punters who are willing to stake big-time money,” Kuldeep says. The bookies are often “ordinary guys” with no criminal record. “If they ever come under a shadow, their bosses help them leave the country,” says Kuldeep. KSCA response The Karnataka State Cricket Association says the scam is a “painful development.” J Abhiram, vice-president of KSCA, says, “The new formats of cricket have brought with them some great opportunities. It is unfortunate that young talents fall prey to the lure of money.” Another senior member of KSCA, observes C M Gautam, a seasoned player, should have mentored younger players rather than falling prey to betting deals. “This is terrible news for KSCA,” says the member. The KSCA has suspended cricketers named by the police in the scam. “They will face a ban for life if they are found guilty,” says Abhiram. The KSCA regularly counsels players on cricket ethics. “We reiterate the importance of promoting good, clean practices,” he says. KPL history The KPL was launched in 2009. “But the tournament was not held between 2010 and 2013 during the tenure of Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath. It was restarted in 2013,” says a senior KSCA member who has served in important official capacities. He points out that such franchise-based cricket tournaments help local talent get noticed and graduate to bigger platforms. It also gives them the opportunity to interact and learn from international players with whom they share the dressing room, says the member. “Would C M Gautam have ever imagined he would get to train under stalwarts like Vivian Richards? The problem is when players misuse the opportunities,” the member says. Quick formats, quick money R Kaushik, freelance journalist and co-author of ‘281 and Beyond’, VVS Laxman’s autobiography, has been covering cricket for nearly three decades. He feels quicker formats such as T20 are a great addition to the sport. “It isn’t as if betting and spot-fixing was unheard of before. If anything, this format has forced players to up their fitness and fielding standards, besides offering the audience a mix of cricket and entertainment,” he says. The T20 game is here to stay, regardless of whether the purists like it or not. “However, especially in domestic leagues, the possibilities of unsavoury practices are greater, and it is incumbent upon the organisers to do due diligence, particularly while assessing the credentials of prospective team owners,” he cautions. The idea behind KPL was to use the franchise route to tap talent in remote corners of the state. But the scam has eroded the image of Karnataka cricket, he says. There is so much money in the game in terms of match fees and professional contracts that it is foolish for cricketers to allow themselves to be led astray, he says. Cases in KPL match-fixing scandal (Cases cracked in September and October) Bookies Bhavesh Bafna and Sanyam allegedly approached a Ballari Tuskers’ bowler to give more than 19 runs per over, but he refused. Bhavesh Bafna was eventually arrested; police are hunting for Sanyam, a native of Delhi. Bengaluru Blasters’ team bowling coach Vinu Prasad and batsman an Vishwanathan have been arrested. Ballari Tuskers’ team captain Gautam and player Abrar Kazi were arrested. They have been booked for spot-fixing during a Hubli Tigers vs Ballari Tuskers match which was the KPL final. The batsmen allegedly got paid Rs 20 lakh to score slowly. Also, police say the players fixed another match involving Bengaluru Blasters. Gautam has played Ranji and IPL for RCB, Mumbai Indians, and Delhi Daredevils. Abrar Kazi has played Ranji for Karnataka and Mizoram. After they began investigations, police caught player Nishant Singh Shekhawat and international bookie Sayyam. A resident of Haryana, Sayyam has absconded and fled to the West Indies. A lookout notice was issued and he was arrested for colluding with Bhavesh Bafna to fix matches. Bafna is still in judicial custody. Player Nishant Singh Shekhawat was arrested for being in touch with bookies. Police have recently issued a lookout notice against Arvind Reddy, owner of the Ballari team. IPL player K C Cariappa was also interrogated in connection with the KPL spot-fixing scam. Cariappa’s name came up during the interrogation of player Gautam. Cariappa has earlier played for Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab in IPL. He played in KPL for Bijapur Bulls. When the high life beckons A senior cricketer-turned-writer, who has travelled with the Indian cricket team and covered international cricket for four decades, says many young players give in to the lure of quick money. “The susceptible players are generally in the early twenties. They long for lavish lifestyles and get trapped by eagle-eyed bookies who lure them with wine, women and money,” says the writer. Some in the evening of their careers turn rogue in the hope that they can secure their future. He points out that since spot and match-fixing are common in domestic and international cricket, the onus is on the ICC, BCCI and the KSCA to stop it. “Evidently, over the past 25 years, the cricket establishment has failed to control this epidemic,” he says. He calls for a stricter cricket administration. When the high life beckons A senior cricketer-turned-writer, who has travelled with the Indian cricket team and covered international cricket for four decades, says many young players give in to the lure of quick money. “The susceptible players are generally in the early twenties. They long for lavish lifestyles and get trapped by eagle-eyed bookies who lure them with wine, women and money,” says the writer. Some in the evening of their careers turn rogue in the hope that they can secure their future. He points out that since spot and match-fixing are common in domestic and international cricket, the onus is on the ICC, BCCI and the KSCA to stop it. “Evidently, over the past 25 years, the cricket establishment has failed to control this epidemic,” he says. He calls for a stricter cricket administration. Shaming the guilty MAY act as a deterrent Cricket writer R Kaushik says systems are in place to encourage players to report illegal approaches. “Eventually, though, it is about each individual’s sense of right and wrong. It’s about playing the sport for the right reasons. It’s about the kind of upbringing one has had,” he says. He believes counselling can help, but that alone won’t suffice. “You can have all the anti-corruption lectures. You might know that in this day and age, it is impossible to get away with under-hand practices. But unless you are able to separate the right from the wrong, education will only have that much impact. Hopefully, the naming and shaming of those found guilty will be a deterrent.”

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