‘Do you think the owners are using their influence over teams and coaches to make money from betting?’
‘Definitely. Definitely. If I own a team, you have all the information and we need information. You are in touch with all the other team owners. They are working for a single aim- to earn money’
– Excerpts from the book ‘Bookie, Gambler, Fixer, Spy’ by Award Winning British sports journalist Ed Hawkins.
The conversation that you just read was between the author Ed Hawkins and one of his contacts in the murky underbelly of India’s illegal betting syndicates- a man named Vinay (name changed of course), who is a top bookie in India. Needless to say, the dialogue was about the IPL team owners and their possible role in insider malpractices and corruption. When the book came out last year, there was a lot of talk about the possibility of the India v Pakistan 2011 World Cup semi-final being fixed but the parts relating to the IPL were possibly brushed over since the idea must have seemed preposterous at that stage- although not exactly impossible.
That Sickening Feeling
Skeletons have tumbled forth thick and fast since the day the three Rajasthan Royals cricketers were arrested for match fixing and if the arrest of CSK team Principal Gurunath Meriyappan was not enough; the IPL has been dragged into another scandal with Rajasthan Royals team owner Raj Kundra confessing to Delhi Police that he placed bets on IPL matches. Now, this is the lowest the IPL could have sunk in anyone’s estimate as far as corporate governance, ethics or tenets of fair play are concerned. Raj Kundra- a cloth merchant from London- who now passes off as a sports entrepreneur of sorts in India seemed to be the last person who could be involved in such a thing but then again the rewards of betting on prior knowledge is something which promises unthinkable rewards from the shady betting market in India. Mr. Kundra stands to gain a considerable amount of money over a two month period if he supplies the top bookies with inside information and in return he is allowed to place enormous wagers on outcomes he is already aware of.
A Private Club
The owners of 2 different IPL franchises have now been caught in quagmire of illegal betting and possible sharing of privileged information. It is now perfectly within the realms of possibility to think that the IPL is nothing but a private club, most of whose members are rich, shady individuals engaged in a brilliant quid pro quo model of information sharing, which helps everyone in making money on the side irrespective of the fortunes of their franchises. So, if Team Owner A wants to place a bet on a particular match then he can call up Team Owner B and get hold of vital team information and in return Team Owner A will favour the return when the time arises. Possibly, this is the most lucrative means of making money for some of the owners during the two months when the IPL is on.
In addition to that, Mr. Kundra’s wife and film actress Shilpa Shetty has also been accused of placing bets on one match but she has denied the allegations so far. The Delhi Police have hardly ever gone wrong as far as cases of match fixing are concerned and so when the dust settles on the whole thing you might well find Shilpa Shetty in the same state in which she was found during the few episodes of Celebrity Big Brother. In tears.
The Noose Tightens Around the BCCI
However, the most interesting fallout of the present saga might be the corundum in which the BCCI will find itself in, after the latest revelations. Now, the BCCI will surely find itself involved in two parallel inquiries into the conduct of two individuals- Kundra and Meriyappan- connected with two franchisees, involved in the same offence. So, it remains to be seen if the BCCI beats both of them with the same stick or not. The rules of the IPL are clear- both the franchises are supposed to be booted out if they are involved in such shady activities; however, it is indeed a farfetched thought whether the BCCI will act fairly for once. The whole thing has taken a new twist altogether and the BCCI has surely hit upon a situation from which it will find it difficult to salvage the reputation of the IPL. Is it worth it anymore?
Image Source: IANS