Delhi cricket and its bookies’ connection

Arrests of alleged bookies inside the stadium in Delhi during IPL matches with has again raised concerns over the illegal betting market in the country PHOTO:Getty

Instances of match fixing are not new to the DDCA and with the government  languishing on the question of reforms, there seems to be no quick solution 

Bookies and fixers have allegedly been known to have deep roots within Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA). And recently when two accused — Krishan Garg and Manish Kansal — were arrested during an Indian Premier League game between SunRisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals for helping some bookies with “pitch-siding”, live information for ball-to-ball betting using the time lag between actual match action and live TV coverage, many inside the Feroz Shah Kotla premises were hardly taken by surprise.

“What’s new in this?” a veteran DDCA member asked the scribe.

“These are some small-time punters being used as dummies by the powerful people running the show here,” was how he described the entire drama unfolded by BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) during the recent Indian Premier League matches. In fact, it all started when the ACU personnel confronted a “cleaner” for talking non-stop over his mobile inside Kotla premises.

“What are you doing here?” ACU personnel asked him. “Main apni girlfriend se baat kar raha hoon (I am talking to my girlfriend),” was his reply. The matter was immediately reported to the Delhi Police and two people were thereafter taken into custody, with one DDCA peon still absconding.

Only 40 persons were registered with the DDCA as the staff which oversees housekeeping, but it has been uncovered that 42 people were allowed inside the Arun Jaitley Stadium during the IPL 2021 tournament.  But the DDCA insiders are not convinced by how the investigation has been going on so far.

“Who made their cards (accreditation cards of house-keeping staff). Who cleared the list of all staffers being engaged for the match?” are some of the uncomfortable questions that no one in the DDCA is ready to answer. “This again looks to be a cover-up operation by the top officials involved with a betting syndicate in Delhi,” said a former DDCA official.

He cited many examples in the past when no action was taken against the culprits.

 

Bookies inside dressing rooms

In fact, a sting operation a few years back aired by a news channel showed the nexus between bookies and several DDCA office-bearers. 

Even during the course of the 2011 World Cup game between India and The Netherlands, a known bookie in Delhi circles who happened to be a member of the DDCA’s sports working committee was seen inside the Indian dressing room, where only team members and officials are allowed.

The incident gained significance as the ICC was keen on ensuring that no controversy regarding match-fixing occurs during the tournament. The alleged bookie involved, in fact, sued the news channels and newspapers for publishing the report. But the case was dismissed after it was brought into the notice of the court that “how DDCA itself was paying legal expenses of this alleged bookie, and the receipts were submitted to prove the close links of state association and the alleged bookie”.

If this is not enough to jolt you as a reader, then hang on… 

In 2020, a top DDCA official spent more than two months behind the bars for a case related to his involvement in illegal GST refunds in various fraud companies. The said official was taken into the custody by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Noida, and was put behind bars in Meerut for over two months.

It is alleged that due to his (DDCA official) links in political circles, the charge-sheet was not filed in the stipulated 60-day period to let him walk out on bail. The case is still pending but no action was taken against this powerful official by either DDCA or the BCCI, till date. And he is still running the day-to-day show in Delhi cricket.

In 2017, a sting operation conducted by British tabloid ‘The Sun’, Sobers Joban, along with another alleged bookie Priyank Saxena, were shown claiming that they can fix Ashes Test in lieu of 140,000 pounds. Joban, a Delhi-based former cricketer and son of a DDCA member, Baljeet Joban, who runs the same Lal Bahadur Shastri coaching centre, was never questioned or apprehended by any investigating agency in India. The Joban Sr can still be seen with all powerful DDCA officials, as if nothing has happened.

 

Oxygen to Delhi cricket 

More recently, Delhi’s most influential and powerful businessmen Navneet Kalra was arrested by police for allegedly hoarding and selling oxygen concentrators to people at inflated prices. But for many in the cricket fraternity, particularly in DDCA, Kalra is a “seasoned cricket lover” having close relations with many former and current lot of cricketers. 

In a recent marriage function of a DDCA’s known officials daughter a couple of months back, Kalra was not just there present as a close family friend but also apparently presented a Korean brand SUV as gift to the bride. Kalra’s proximity to a former India skipper and another famous India player, banned for his role in the 2000 match-fixing case, has not been a secret to anyone in Delhi cricket circles. Kalra’s famous eating joints in Khan Market stand witness to hosting almost all famous cricketers over the last three decades. 

 

What next?  

Over the years, the match-fixing and betting racket has seen a rampant rise, especially in the local cricket leagues. Despite the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Lodha committee coming out with a suggestion that betting should be made legal in India, no steps have been taken so far by the Govt of India.

It is high time something was done about the menace of both spot and match-fixing and here are some steps that the authorities could take right away…

  • There is an urgent need to come up with a “fixing legislation” to deal with such issues. Till now there are no laws in India to counter match or spot-fixing. That’s why even though many cricket players have been banned; there have been no convictions in India. While top players get huge sums of money through endorsements and may not be tempted, the same is not with the case of other players.
  • To Legalise betting, just like other developed countries around the world have done. America flirted with Prohibition right till the 1920s. The effect boomeranged and led to a flourishing bootlegging industry and the most famous gangster associated with it is Al Capone. There is no doubt that ‘legalising betting will not eradicate fixing”. But it will greatly reduce the size of the illegal betting industry and make it more manageable and open to scrutiny. Therein lies the key to reform.
  • Hitting the nail on the head is important to end this betting syndicate. Right now, at the upper level we have underworld dons then ground bookies and then cricketers in the ladder of match fixing. No matter how many players you ban, as long as the kingpins of fixing remain free and untouched, bookies will keep on approaching players to fix matches. The government must take the kingpins head on.
  • The BCCI is one of the most-opaque bodies around and till the issue of transparency is sorted out, it will be difficult to take up other important issues. Where does the BCCI’s money come and go? What are so many politicians doing heading so many cricket bodies? Why do RTI applications not yield enough results regarding the BCCI?

 

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Chander Shekhar Luthra
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