BCCI probes links between players, bookie in Tamil Nadu Premier League
An India player, an IPL regular and a Ranji Trophy coach are among those who figure in an internal investigation by the BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), which has found rampant corruption in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL).
Sources involved with the probe say that bookies and match-fixers, after taking control of a franchise through an illegal deal with the team owner, are running “the team in such a way that they make windfall gain in betting”.
Sources said that this “serious development” has the potential to compromise virtually the entire TN Twenty20 league, since “important persons in touch with bookies are spreading in different teams”.
They said that the investigators got wind of the operation following a money dispute between those involved. The ACU is taking legal opinion on this issue and is likely to lodge an FIR with the state police in the coming days.
Speaking to The Indian Express, BCCI’s ACU chief Ajit Singh said there were “a few instances when players were approached”.
“These players have informed us and we are checking who have approached them. We are taking statements asking when they were approached, under what circumstances. Usually, the messages come on WhatsApp, so we are trying to establish IDs. We haven’t questioned any team owners, yet,” said Singh, who is a former Rajasthan DGP.
There have been several cases of wide-spread corruption in unofficial micro-T20 leagues, but this is the first time a high-profile BCCI-recognised tournament has come under such a cloud.
The eight-team TNPL has its nerve centre at the iconic Chepauk Stadium and features top India players like R Ashwin, Murali Vijay, Vijay Shankar, Dinesh Karthik and Washington Sundar, among others.
Inaugurated by former India captain MS Dhoni four years ago, the league has Star India as its official broadcasters with prominent players-turned-commentators such as Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee, Scott Styris, Simon Doull, Michael Clarke and David Hussey calling games over the years.
The ACU investigators say a consortium comprising Gujarat and Kolkata-based bookies and a fixer involved with the tainted Rajputana Cricket League — one of the 14 people arrested over allegations of spot-fixing in 2017 by Jaipur Police — has been in touch with the owner of the TNPL team under the scanner since last April.
After a series a meetings at five-star hotels in Chennai, Agra and Jaipur, the owner was paid Rs 4 crore in lieu of control of the team, sources said. The alleged fixer from the Rajputana League, the point man of the deal, had promised others that they would make money through betting with inside information about the team and would also have the ability to manipulate play, sources said.
Sessions with major stakeholders of the TNPL and extensive scrutiny of the team in question threw up the name of a first-class cricketer and coach who were ready to toe the fixers’ line for a price. It has come to light that the coach was presented a diamond set by a bookie based out of Kolkata. The coach is also believed to have asked for an SUV before settling for an amount of Rs 25 lakh, sources said.
ACU sources say that one of the bookies confided to them that the coach was seen giving instructions to players on how many runs to score. With the coach now moving to a new team, the ACU fears that the rot might spread.
Another player labelled “dubious” by the ACU happens to be a regular with IPL teams over the years and is a known first-class cricketer. The player is said to have influenced others to fix games before the start of the 2019 season, and was hosted by the Kolkata-based bookie, sources said.
The probe also exposed an instance when bookies and fixers decided the franchise squad. Those interrogated by the ACU revealed that a young India player was preferred over a veteran since the owner had helped him in his education and provided financial help for his sister’s wedding.