Charges of match-fixing follow IPL final

By Trevor Chesterfield | April 27, 2010

India’s mega rich Indian Premier League administration, already besieged by a list of damaging allegations, is about to be jolted by another major scandal – how crooked bookmakers fixed the result of Sunday night’s final.

This latest claim has emerged after the Chennai Super Kings ended the Mumbai Indians fairy tale season with bookmakers spending as much as US$200-million (about INR5000 corore) to clean up as a packed house of 60 000 watched the game at Dr D Y Patil Sports Academy Stadium in India’s teeming financial capital.

A variety of subtle tactical ploys, among them dropped catches (Suresh Raina), irregularities with the batting order and certain bowling changes can be cited among some of the ploys used to place pressure on the Mumbai Indians throughout the game. There has also been a rejection of suggestions that West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard cannot play spin as a reason for him being held back for so long, while the use of Harbhajan Singh at four in the Mumbai Indians order and the Ambati Rayudu run out fiasco (running blind of all things at such a crucial stage of the innings), raised a series of prickly post match questions no one was prepared to answer.

There were far too many strategies involved by the team management in Sunday’s final that didn’t make sense, or with which anyone could feel comfortable; it was a throwback to certain unfathomable strategies carried out by the South African captain Hansie Cronje on the 2000 tour of India, as well as the tainted 1999 World Cup game between Pakistan and Bangladesh in Northampton, to be creditable. And these are only two of any number of examples.

Not since the New Delhi CBI on April 7, 2000, exposed Cronje and others with evidence of match-fixing by an illegal industry has the game in India been rocked by such toxic and incriminating claims.

As it is despite all the warnings, a paper trail of financial corruption, tax evasion dating back to the 2009 IPL in South Africa, in-house sleaze, maladministration and staff appointments through nepotism, has created an image of the IPL being run by a dysfunctional narcissistic money-grabbing coterie in the mould of Ponzi scammers Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford. The first has been found guilty of defrauding wealthy clients and the second facing 21 charges of financial mismanagement by the FBI.

Match-fixing claims in India are nothing new, but those surrounding this year’s final emerged after the IPL’s parent body the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) removed the league’s high-flying egotistical commissioner Lalit Modi, through a highly publicised suspension following days of administrative brinkmanship between Modi and the BCCI president, Shashank Manohar.

While news agencies and top cricket websites have tracked events leading to Modi’s suspension because of the corruption allegations and the appointment of Chirayu Amin as the IPL interim chairman, it is suggested by sources within the board and the IPL and speaking on condition of anonymity, how the Mumbai bookies had controlled the results of the final as well as possibly one of the two semi-finals.

“Sorry to use a cliché, but the match-fixing story is just a tip of an iceberg that has been allowed to grow without regulation since last year’s Champions League,” said the source, verifying claims that appeared in three reputed British news papers that have not been denied by BCCI, IPL or Karnataka (state) officials. This is how the bombs that went off in Bangalore on April 17 were planted not by terrorists but Mumbai bookies designed to force IPL to move the semi-finals to the nation’s pulsating city famed for its financial clout and centre of its thriving film industry as part of their underworld dealings.

The three newspapers, The Times, Daily Telegraph and The Guardian all quoted the Home Minister for Karnataka, V.S. Acharya, as having received “credible information from intelligence sources that the (Mumbai) betting racket is behind the blasts. We are carrying out investigations.”

Although nothing official has since been heard regarding such allegations, and no follow up comments issued from a reputed Indian state official, it is said by BCCI, “Investigations are on-going and once completed a full report will be released through the investigating authorities”.

It has since been suggested by Karnataka officials how Modi and the IPL, while forced to move the semi-finals to Mumbai for “safety reasons” used his initial complaints about moving the games as a Machiavellian rhetoric decoy to allay the feelings among those in the Karnataka capital. An unverified ANI report quotes an unnamed official admitting how certain coercion was involved with a kickback to the state cricket board “as a sweetener” by the IPL management.

Criticism of Modi and the way the IPL was functioning without regulation under the commissioner were also contained in a five-line letter written in January. These have been attributed to BCCI media and finance committee chairman Rajiv Shukla, sent to Sharad Pawar, the wording has accused the IPL of acting outside administrative norms of such an organisation. Whether written before or after the auction of players, where the eight franchises eschewed all Pakistan players, is uncertain.

The IPL also removed former popular Pakistan batsman and PCB chief executive Ramiz Raja from the TV commentary team for this year’s tournament; Raja was on the IPL TV line-up in South Africa last year.

Shukla, who has refused to confirm or deny the wording of the letter, was among the BCCI officials attending the IPL council meeting Monday that removed Modi as commissioner.

In a statement issued Monday after the meeting at the BCCI offices, Manohar the governing council meeting on Monday decided that BCCI vice–president Amin would run the IPL while charges against Modi are investigated.

“The IPL is a great property and loved by everyone, but ethics and transparency are most important," Manohar told a media conference post IPL council meeting in Mumbai

“In the last fifteen days, there were lot of allegations and counter allegations made through (the) media, as a result of which, the board looked into the allegations levelled and took a decision to issue a show cause notice to Lalit Modi, and pending inquiry, decided to suspend him," Manohar added. "The board will hold, after receiving a reply from Mr. Modi, an inquiry if necessary. If the reply or Mr Modi convinces the members, the proceedings will be dropped …

“(The) BCCI board’s chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty has been asked to look into the records because many of the documents are missing. Every day the income tax department is asking for records and we don’t have them in our custody,” was the surprising admission.

Modi was suspended late Sunday, soon after Chennai won the final against Mumbai and hours ahead of the council meeting which he had threatened last week to have stopped through a court injunction, which failed to materialise.

Interestingly, there has been another call for bookmakers to be legalised. Indian sources quoted by AFP and PTI have again called for transparency, as happened in 2000, when the CBI uncovered widespread illegal betting and match-fixing involving Indian bookmakers and leading players. Also, in the aftermath of the King Commission probing Cronje on charges of match-fixing led to calls for gambling to be legalised.

“It should have been legalised long ago. Banning it has created this problem,” says Barun Mitra, head of the Liberty Institute, a free-market think-tank in New Delhi.

In their report AFP, quoting a former Mumbai senior police official, Aftab Ahmed Khan, argued how “decriminalisation would loosen the grip of an underworld that largely controls gambling rackets and create a level playing field for ordinary punters.

"It will make a lot of difference to the common man. A lot of genuine speculators and cricket enthusiasts will welcome it,” he added.

©: Copyright – Trevor Chesterfield.
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