New Delhi: In a sordid scandal to hit cricket, three Rajasthan Royals players, including Indian pacer Sreesanth, were on Thursday sent to five days police custody after being arrested on charges of spot-fixing in the IPL, triggering widespread shock and anger.
More than 12 hours after Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila were taken into custody by Delhi Police after the Rajasthan Royals match against Mumbai Indians got over in Mumbai, police here revealed shocking details of their alleged involvement with the underworld-linked bookies.
Besides the 30-year-old Sreesanth from Kerala, who has featured in 27 Tests and 53 ODIs, the other two are spinners Chavan (Mumbai) and Chandila (Haryana).
It is the worst scandal to hit the Indian Premier League, which attracts some of the best cricketers from around the world.
Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said while Chavan was paid Rs.60 lakhs by the bookies, Sreesanth and Chandila got Rs.40 lakhs each.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Lokesh Kumar Sharma also sent to police custody 11 bookies arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police from New Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Police said they had seized 55 mobile phones and laptops but needed to recover money allegedly paid to the players to give away a fixed amount of runs in one over each.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) promptly suspended the three while cricketers in India and abroad reacted in disbelief and anger.
Neeraj Kumar said Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandela were involved in spot-fixing May 5, May 9 and May 15 in games against the Pune Warriors, King’s Punjab XI and Mumbai Indians respectively.
“The arrests were made after we listened to taped conversations (running to) hundreds of hours,” he told the media.
“More arrests are expected but those will be of bookies and no other player will be arrested,” he said.
He said Chandila also acted as a liaison between Chavan and bookmakers. Chavan was promised Rs.60 lakh for giving away 14 runs in his second over against Mumbai Indians Wednesday night.
Chandila was to give a signal before starting the over. But he forgot, as a result of which the bookies failed to place bets for the match.
Because of this, Chandila had to return Rs.20 lakhs he had got as advance.
Police said the three players were told to use codes that bookies based far away could decipher: such as tucking a towel in the trouser, rotating a watch and wearing a wrist band.
In the game against Kings XI, Sreesanth did tuck a towel in his trouser before his second over — and also did some stretching and warm-up to give the bookies ample time to place heavy bets.
In that over, he conceded 13 runs against the agreed 14 but was still paid Rs.40 lakhs.
Delhi Police made the dramatic arrests after Wednesday night’s game when Chavan gifted 15 runs in his second over. He had been asked by the bookies to give away 14 runs or more.
Mumbai Police sources said the arrests followed hours of intercepted telephone calls, two dozens of which originated from Pakistan, now home to a section of the Mumbai underworld.
“This has been a tough day for me, my team and cricket,” said Rajasthan Royals captain and former India legend Rahul Dravid. He said the episode was “extremely sad and dangerous”.
Sports Minister Jitendra Singh demanded “strict action” against the guilty cricketers.
“I am completely shocked,” said former India captain Sunil Gavaskar. “The IPL rewards cricketers quite handsomely, some over handsomely. Despite that some players are tempted to take the wrong route is shocking.”
Former India wicket-keeper Syed Kirmani was horrified. “Yet another black day for Indian cricket. You are cheating yourself, your country. It is totally unacceptable.”
BCCI president N. Srinivasan defended the IPL.
“One or two bad eggs here and there cannot sully the entire game… I don’t subscribe to the view that the IPL is untenable,” he said.
Last year, the BCCI suspended Shalabh Srivastava, Mohnish Mishra, T.P. Sudhindra, Amit Yadav and Abhinav Bali for spot-fixing in the IPL after a sting operation by a TV channel.
Spot fixing first came to light in 2010 when three Pakistani cricketers Mohammad Asif, Mohammed Aamir and then skipper Salman Butt were arrested in England.