Home Sport Cricket Fake cricket league duped Russian gamblers, say police

Fake cricket league duped Russian gamblers, say police

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Police say the sham league began a few weeks after the latest season of the Indian Premier League.

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INDIAN police shut down what they called a fake cricket league that enlisted farmers and youths to pretend to be professional players and hired a presenter who sounded like one of the sport’s most famous commentators, in an alleged scheme that ensnared Russian gamblers.

Police say the plot took place in a rural part of the western Indian state of Gujarat. The games were streamed on YouTube, but the narrow camera angle did not show the wider backdrop to viewers.

Instead, digital crowd noise was piped into the footage, accompanying commentary by a voice that resembled that of Harsha Bhogle, a household name among cricket fans worldwide.

The sham league began a few weeks after the latest season of the Indian Premier League – an actual competition that is widely followed in India and elsewhere – concluded in May.

Police say organisers set up a Telegram channel to facilitate wagers from gamblers in Russia, who bet on results that were fixed: Players followed instructions by umpires who were under the control of bookies.

Sports betting is generally prohibited in India.

Gujarat police said they received a tip about the fake league last week and conducted a raid as a bogus match was being played. Law enforcement officials did not identify the suspects, but they arrested two umpires and two organisers, according to Bhavesh Rathod, a state police officer.

“It is a very complicated and technology-based crime. I will have to take help from the cybercrime cell to find the mastermind,” he said.

The fake league’s batters and bowlers wore uniforms of major IPL teams Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Gurajat Titans. They were paid about $5 per game and are being treated as witnesses instead of suspects, Rathod said.

Cricket was spread globally by British colonisers and has a fan base today that spans from Britain and Ireland to South Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and the Caribbean.

Broadcasting rights to the increasingly lucrative IPL were auctioned in June for some $6 billion spread over five years. By comparison, in that same month, American Major League Soccer sold 10 years of global broadcasting rights to Apple for a reported $2.5 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The masterminds of the fake cricket league, on the other hand, received a modest pay-off of about $4,000 from the gamblers, police said. But they had also spent about twice that just on the fake cricket ground, Rathod said, suggesting that the “scam is much bigger.”

The Washington Post

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