New Delhi: Video evidence presented in a public forum by the Delhi Police on Thursday has revealed that illegal activities are still rife in the IPL and threatens to throw the future of the lucrative Twenty20 league into crisis. In a startling and first-of-its-kind press conference, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar and DCP, Special Cell Sanjeev Yadav revealed how the authorities had tracked and uncovered a ring of illegal activity between bookies and three members of the Rajasthan Royals IPL franchise, chiefly India fast bowler Sreesanth who was arrested in Mumbai along with the lesser-known Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan today. Eleven bookies and their assistants were also arrested, said the police.
Based on a tip-off from one of their sources that major illegal activity was taking place in the IPL and generated out of the Mumbai underworld, the Delhi police tracked the movements of certain bookies for over a month and on Thursday said it had "hundreds of hours" of damning evidence.
"The investigation started after we got information that [the] Mumbai underworld was indulging in match and spot fixing," said Commissioner Kumar. "Special cell teams were present in all the matches but we cannot say with certainty that more players or teams are not involved in match or spot-fixing. Sreesanth was arrested from Carter Road, Mumbai. One of the bookies, Jiju Janardhanan, is a very close friend of Sreesanth. More arrests will take place."
As revealed by the police with telephonic and video evidence from live matches, the modus was that in particular the concerned cricketer was to guarantee that he would bowl a minimum number of runs in a specific over. Through a series of non-verbal cues in the form of on-field movements, such as stretching, moving of jewellery and a wrist watch or the tucking of a towel into the trousers, the cricketers would signal to the bookies that this was the over in which they would follow the agreed plan.
The three matches on which the police focused all involved Rajasthan: against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali on May 9, against Pune Warriors in Jaipur on May and against Mumbai Indians in Mumbai on May 15.
Per the evidence, in the match between Rajasthan and Pune Warriors at Jaipur on May 5, the offspinner Chandila had agreed to give away 14 runs off his bowling in one over but forgot to give the signal to the bookies. In the concerned over, Chandila began with a wide down the leg side and then, with fine leg up in the circle, drifted the second ball way down the Robin Uthappa's pads and was swept away. The third ball was on the stumps but short in length and Uthappa cut it away to the point boundary. A dot and a single followed and the last ball was full on Aaron Finch's pads. Again, with fine leg up, that was easy fodder for the batsman to sweep a boundary.
According to DCP Yadav, there had been a conversation between Chandila and a bookie by the name of Amit. "He [Chandila] was told to bowl the first over with lot of confidence and with the same confidence bowl for us in the next over. The player agreed to it. The bookie asked: 'What indication would you give?] and Chandila said 'I will lift my T-shirt before the over starts. After that I will look up and then start bowling.' Ajit forgot to give this indication," said Yadav.
As arranged, Chandila had conceded 14 runs. But according to the police, the fact that Chandila had not signaled that this was the over to bet on left the bookies incensed and a heated argument ensued between both parties after the match.
According to the police, in the match between Rajasthan and Punjab, Sreesanth had taken Rs 40 lakhs to give at least 13 runs in one over. In video footage of the match shown on a big screen to the media, the Delhi Police highlighted both of Sreesanth's overs in that May 9 match in which they identified an alleged pattern of spot-fixing.
"It was decided that Sreesanth would put a towel in his trouser before bowling the second over of his spell and also give enough time to bookies to indulge in heavy betting. As decided, Sreesanth bowled the first over without wearing the towel. In the second over he put the towel in his trousers and in order to give enough time to his bookies he did some warming-up, some stretching exercises and then went on to give 13 runs," said Commissioner Kumar to the media.
On the day, Sreesanth had bowled his first over without towel and conceded five off it. Ahead of his second over, Sreesanth had placed a towel on the right side of his body and tucked it into his trousers, followed by a brief warm-up that allegedly gave the bookies time to place big bets. In that over, he conceded 13 runs - precisely what he had been pre-arranged, as stated by Commissioner Kumar. He added, however: "We don't have any evidence that proves Sreesanth convinced Chandila and Chavan to take part in spot-fixing."
In Chavan's case, the Delhi Police singled out Rajasthan's match in Mumbai on May 15 and said the left-arm spinner had allegedly taken Rs 60 lakhs to concede at least 13 runs in his second over. After a tidy first over in which he gave just two singles, Chavan gave 15 in the next. A breakdown of that over reads: six, two, six, dot, one and dot. According to Commissioner Kumar, the advance money for this spot-fix was taken by Chandila who did not play that match; this leads the police to believe that Chandila also acted as a middle man.
Commissioner Kumar also said that no international players are involved in IPL spot-fixing and that the only franchise whose players were engaged in illegal activities was Rajasthan Royals. According to the authorities, the mastermind of this spot-fixing was based overseas but that there was no concrete evidence on the basis of which the police could name any underworld members.