Lack of laws, secret trade, tournament mushrooms

Recent accusations by former Zimbabwean captain Brendan Taylor of match-fixing against him have reopened a box of worms and raised questions about an anti-corruption crusade launched by the Cricket Control Committee of India.

Taylor is the second former captain of that African country to find himself in an anti-corruption network after Heath Strike, who was banned in 2021 for eight years after a similar recognition. But how many top cricketers in India have reported betting attempts to the BCCI’s Corruption Protection Department since the Hansie Cronje case shocked the cricket community in 2000? Cronje also appeared fortunately when Delhi police stumbled upon phone conversations between Sanjaya Chawle, a bookmaker and businessman, and a cricket player while investigating a case of extortion.

Two decades later, a similar story unfolds with statements by Brendan Taylor and a likely multi-year ban after he delayed reporting on attempts by bookmakers, who allegedly blackmailed him into rigging through videos in which he takes cocaine. But that is hardly surprising; The Indian cricket market, however, seems perfect for match-fixing. Let’s look at the ecosystem first, to understand how the match was set up or how the player was told to work according to the script.

A murky past, a shaky present

Because betting is illegal, there is no paper trail, unlike the UK or Australia, which ask for personal information to open an account. This does not help investigative agencies in cases of match-fixing or venue placement. The potential for corruption is huge with bookmakers working in secret, by phone or through social media, and money changes owners in cash.

The BCCI has spent huge sums of money over the past two decades on organizing seminars to educate cricketers at all levels against match-fixing, but has promised no protection to whistleblowers. Although there should be “zero tolerance” in India towards those involved in any cricket rigging, the role of the BCCI was reportedly limited to banning individuals in cases of illegal acts.

Consider the infamous 2013 IPL that reportedly involved speedster S Sreesantha or marginal players such as Ajit Chandila and Ankit Chavan, and the lack of a thorough investigation that would have completely removed the threat.

Sreesanth cried out for justice, asking questions about the “sealed envelope” submitted by the Mudgal Justice Committee to the Supreme Court, which contains 13 names “not handed over to the Lodha Committee or the police” for further investigation. Apparently she was pushed under the rug by the Board of Administrators led by Vinod Rai. Apart from a clean statement to then-IPL CEO Sundar Raman, this was not discussed in court even when it was an interesting topic among cricket fans.

Sreesantha, Chandila and Chavan were arrested by Delhi police and banned for life by the BCCI. However, in 2015, the court dismissed them and the ban on Sreesantha was lifted.

No effort has been made to address the core of the problem.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former BCCI official, who testified before Justice Mudgal investigator, said Newspaper laundry, “The investigation team was asked for my opinion on Sreesanth’s involvement. And I told them in simple and clear words … ‘can a player on his own bowl specifically skip?’ How can there be any cricket setup without involving the team captain? ”

While investigators were convinced that Sreesanth was just a small fish in the scandal, the official said: “Unfortunately, nothing happened, and here we are again when the captain of Zimbabwe (Taylor) talks about an Indian businessman who blackmailed him into making a spot-fixing for him.”

High stakes

It is estimated that there are more than 1.50,000 bookmakers in India. And they all subscribe to at least one of the three major unions or major bookmakers that determine the odds and then provide the smaller bookmakers down the chain with live streaming.

Since there are no bookmakers in India, bookmakers operate in secret, and given that the industry is huge, the potential for corruption is huge.

Betting unions are now doing what D-Company did between the 80s sport when the sport traveled to the Gulf and the Hansie Cronje scandal in 2000. The underground has gained access to the locker rooms and is comfortable with BCCI officials and the menu.

However, the BCCI seems to have done too little to combat that plague.

Try the questions asked in the Indian Cricket Board allowing CVC Capitals Partners to acquire a full-fledged IPL team through the amount of Rs 5,625 million. Although the BCCI approved the company after an “internal investigation,” no one can deny that the company has invested heavily in sports betting and gambling around the world, which is unreservedly against the bid targets set by the board.

In 2014, CVC acquired an 80 percent stake in betting and gaming company Sky Bet, which it also founded and is owned by British media and telecommunications conglomerate Sky Group Limited. In 1999, the company bought William Hill, one of Britain’s largest bookmakers. In 2003, he bought the IG Group, a leading British provider of speculative investments such as expansion bets.

A company that invests a lot in the cricket league would not do it for the love of the game, but for profit. And the truth is that companies that have so far invested in other IPL teams have made almost no profit even after 14 seasons.

According to records showing that teams earn about Rs 200 million a year from central revenue and an additional nearly Rs 100 million from ticket collection, sponsorship and trading, the two new team owners could soon be in the red and CVC Capital Partners will lose approximately 260 million per year.

So how is a team expected to play in good spirits?

The need for law

Ajit Singh Shekhawat, who was Rajasthan DGP before taking over as ACSU head of the BCCI in 2018, proposed a match-fixing law, other than betting legalization, to tackle the “unstoppable” threat of cricket corruption . He pointed to the laws in Great Britain and Australia.

The Indian Legal Commission last year also expressed the need to make match-fixing a criminal offense, similar to that in the UK and Australia.

Leagues out of control

In recent years, on the recommendation of its ACSU, the BCCI has decided to put an upper limit on state T20 leagues after several cases of suspicious ownership have emerged. But there was hardly a sure plan on the part of the board to check out a growing number of such tournaments, from Karnataka to Bhilware.

Imagine what happened in March last year, when the Bihar Cricket Federation decided to hold one such league in Patna without the permission of the BCCI. Nothing was taken against the state association despite an official warning letter. The board operated only while the Bihar Cricket League was underway after numerous cases of suspicious ownership and unusual betting patterns emerged. Defiant BCA officials ignored the BCCI and continued with the tournament. The BCCI was supposed to ban the BCA, but no such action was taken.

It is not unpredictable that the sport will continue to be haunted by corrupt practices, two decades after Hansie Cronje fell out of favor. And to lift this cloud, management and other stakeholders will have to play on the front.

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