A major scandal has hit the Indian Premier League.
Delhi Police reported today that they had arrested Indian Test cricketer Sreesanth, as well as Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan – all Rajasthan Royals bowlers – for the alleged fulfilling of promises made to alleged bookmakers during this year’s IPL. The players were allegedly promised money ranging from US$36,000 to 109,000 for each over.
Eleven bookies have also been arrested. One of the middlemen has been identified as Jiju Janardhan, described by the police as Sreesanth’s close friend and team-mate at the Ernakulam club. They have all been taken into police custody for five days.
Neeraj Kumar, the commissioner of Delhi Police, provided a detailed explanation of its investigation, which began in early April, but said it had no evidence to suggest any other player, administrator or team owner was involved. It has registered cases under the Indian Penal Code section 420 and 120B, which deal with fraud, cheating, and criminal conspiracy. Kumar said Sreesanth was picked up from Carter Road in Bandra, a Mumbai suburb. Chandila was arrested outside a hotel where an alleged bookie was staying. Chavan was picked up from the Royals team hotel in Mumbai.
The police have identified the three matches where the alleged fix happened: against Pune Warriors on May 5, Kings XI Punjab on May 9 and Mumbai Indians on May 15. Kumar said the deal was for the bowlers to concede a specified minimum number of runs in a pre-decided over. He explained in detail how the deals were struck, how the players allegedly indicated to the bookmakers that the deal was on, and how they went on to concede those runs. He said the police had the recordings of those tapped phone conversations.
Kumar said the police’s investigation began with tip-offs that the Mumbai underworld was involved in cricket corruption. He said their earlier investigations revealed the three named players were in constant touch with illegal bookmakers, and they waited for them to go through their respective fixes before they arrested them. He said the police had been investigating this since early April.
Chandila was alleged to have conceded 14 predetermined runs in his second over against Warriors on May 5, but he forgot to indicate to the alleged handlers he was going to do so. The police said he was pulled up after the game, and was asked to return the advance of Rs 20 lakh (US$36,512).
Sreesanth, the police said, was alleged to have made the appropriate signal, which was to ask for a towel that he would tuck inside his trousers before bowling his second over against Kings XI on May 9. He was also alleged to have been asked to waste some time so that the bookies can accept bets. This wasn’t a new spell, the police said, but Sreesanth asked for the towel and also did fresh warm-ups and stretching exercises before he began the over. The police alleged Sreesanth had promised to concede 14 runs in that over. He went for 13. The police said the bookies leave themselves a bit of cushion in these deals to cover for external factors. Kumar said the bookies still made crores of rupees through that over. Sreesanth was promised Rs 40 lakh (USD 73,024). Sreesanth wasn’t given another over in the match.
Kumar said they then waited for Chavan to go ahead with his fix, which he said happened in the match against Mumbai, in Mumbai on May 15. The police alleged that Chandila was the go-between man for this deal, and that he spent the whole day training Chavan for the over. Chavan went for just two in his first over, but conceded 15 in his second, the third of Mumbai’s innings.
Chavan’s signal, the police said, was to fiddle with his wristband. The police said Chandila spoke to a bookie soon after the match, and said that the money – Rs 60 lakh (US$109,521) – should be delivered to him and not Chavan. Kumar said this was the point at which they went ahead with the arrest.
Kumar said their investigators went to the grounds so that they could keep an eye on the signals before the allegedly corrupt overs. He said the police was sure the indicators were consistent with the pre-decided signal. He also said the fixed overs were supposed to be the respective bowlers’ second overs, irrespective of whether their side was bowling first or second. The only pre-requisite was to let the bookies know the deal was on, which they did through their signals.
Kumar hinted at underworld and overseas connections, but refused to name anybody. He also said the anti-corruption unit employed by the cricket organisers was not aware of what was going on. He said more arrests – of bookies, and not players – could be expected in the coming days.
Today Rajasthan Royals captain and Indian batting great Rahul Dravid expressed shock and distress after his team-mates were arrested. He said the team was gutted to think their performances may have been affected as a result of the alleged spot-fixing by the three players.
“The players and people around the team are hurting”, Dravid said.
“Our players are devastated that our performances may have been affected, as they have a desire to win that has been evident throughout the tournament. For me as a captain and leader, I have to focus on ensuring the team fulfil their enormous potential and continue to play in the Rajasthan Royals way.
“We as a team take a zero-tolerance view of the situation. The owners and management have made their zero-tolerance policy clear at every possible moment. I am sure they will support every action taken,” he said.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Kevon Cooper also plays for the Rajasthan Royals and is one of a number of West Indians involved in the IPL including Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Jason Holder, Ravi Rampaul, Dwayne Bravo, Chris Barnwell, Fidel Edwards, Dwayne Smith, Kieron Pollard, Samuel Badree, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy. (cricinfo/WG)