KPL spot-fixing arrests ‘matter of when, not if’
Having started in 2009, the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) is India’s first franchise based state T20 league. But the credibility of the first IPL off-spring in India has taken a massive hit with the Bengaluru police’s speedy investigations leading to the arrest of six KPL participants (four players, a coach and a team owner). It has sent shockwaves across Indian cricket but speak to players, officials and those part of the KPL ecosystem and they are least surprised.
“It was a matter of when, not if,” said an ex Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) official. Multiple players in KPL agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. “When they know some guys simply won’t do it (fix), they are extremely careful around us. When you are not around, it becomes free for all,” said a player who has been part of KPL since the beginning. “A player came up to me to say he was offered an iPhone just to meet someone. There is one coach who was carrying a bag full of iPhones to be distributed among players,” another player of repute shares.
Ravi Sawani, former head of ICC and BCCI anti-corruption unit (ACU), whose private security firm was tasked with KPL’s ACU activity till last season, confirms multiple approaches had been reported. “It is up to the management to deal with them and make them public. We monitored on day-to-day basis. Whenever there were any issues, they were reported,” he told Hindustan Times.
“The problem is when the rot is top down, players are reluctant to report. Even if you don’t want to do what they ask you to, reporting it when coaches and owners of your team are involved is not easy. My captain, who was clean, figured out how wrong things were within the team and began announcing the playing eleven in the team huddle after the communication devices were taken away,” a player said. “A senior player was dropped for batting slow by the captain. He thought it was poor form. He later discovered batting slow was part of the fix,” a franchise official said.
“It’s happened in a real match situation where the captain was waiting for instructions on whether to bat or bowl before going for the toss,” went another player account.
During the first two years, KPL was broadcast on local cable channels. When the Anil Kumble led dispensation took charge of Karnataka cricket between 2011 and 2013, the KPL was discontinued. Kumble had hinted KPL could go wrong by saying it could ‘give a backdoor entry to people not passionate about cricket’.
When Brijesh Patel returned as secretary of the KSCA, the league was revived. Experts say the KPL stakes went up when big broadcasters came into picture after the revival.
That’s when more money started trickling in and betting numbers around the league swelled. Sony took up broadcast rights for three editions, 2014-16 and Star Sports came in 2017 onwards. “In Karnataka itself, betting would be at least one-third of what goes in IPL, which by itself is R100 to 200 crore. And across India it would be 1000-plus crore,” a BCCI ACU official said.
The Karnataka Cricket Association has suspended all Karnataka Premier League (KPL) participants who are in police custody, reserving the right to invoke the termination clause if found guilty. The BCCI anti-corruption (ACU) wing is conducting parallel investigations and sharing information they have collected with the police. The new BCCI top brass has also been apprised of the investigations.