Cricket / IPL / ODIs / T20

CRICKET IN A FIX

In May 2011, after an extensive six-month investigation SI India did a cover story on the shadowy world that exists beneath world cricket. The investigation, revealed the extent to which match fixing was ingrained in the game. Below, are selected original transcripts of conversations with bookies as well as the full story.

– Heena Zuni Pandit

Excerpts from conversations with some of India’s top bookies*

On how they conduct business
SI India: Aur money transaction kaise hota hai?
Bookie: Hawala. See, jaise maanlo. Teen log hain. Tinku ne **** [Player’s name removed] se baat ki. Aur ab usse Dubai mein **** ke account mein paise pahunchaane hain. Toh woh apne Dubai ke aadmi ko phone karke boldega ki woh **** ko paise de de. Woh Dubaiwala aadmi **** ke account mein paisa transfer kardega, which is obviously not in ****’s name, aur phir **** confirmation de dega ki usse paisa mil gaya ya nahin.

On how a player busted a deal
SI India: OK. And you are sure about these two, **** and ****? [Two players whose names have been removed.]
Bookie: Haan. Inse meri khud baat hui hai.
SI India: Okay. Kya baat hui thi? Ek baar bataaiye.
Bookie: Jo tape mere paas thi, usme toh ek argument tha.
SI India: Jab woh shuru hota hai tape, toh usme first voice kiski hai?
Bookie: First voice humaari hai. Jab tak hum kuch bolte nahin, woh saamne se kuch nahin bolta.
SI India: Aap mein se kiski hai? Sunilji ki?
Bookie: Nahin, Tinku ki. Do tapes hain. Tinku ne kaha ki… [pauses]
SI-India: 1st tape mein Tinku ne kaha ki…
Bookie: Theek hai sab kuch. Hum paise bhijwa dete hain. Baaki saari baat pehle decide ho chuki thi, phir jab usne commitment poora nahin kiya, toh doosri baar unhone mujhe kaha ki phone laga aur pooch.
Maine kaha, “Sir kya hua? Ye gadbad kaise ho gayi? Hum toh mar gaye!’
SI India: Direct **** [Player’s name] ko phone kiya?
Bookie: Haan. Toh woh bola, ‘Behen ke…phone rakh.’
SI India: Phir?
Bookie: Phir agle din uske kisi acquaintance ka phone aaya ki aise-aise ho gaya tha. ‘*** [Reference to a Board official removed] ne gadbad kar diya. Usse pata chal gaya tha toh usne dressing room mein kaha ki aisa kuch karne ki koshish nahin karein or isiliye hum paise wapas kar rahe hain’.

MF_COVERfinal_2nd time.inddOn who Delhi’s top guns are
SI India: And who else is involved?
Bookie: Bookies?
SI India: Yes.
Bookie: Tinku. I told you about him. I don’t know if anyone else is involved at this level other than him. At least, no one here in Delhi. All the Pakistan matches which were played in Abu Dhabi were known to him. And [he would] pass on the information to Sunil bhaiya. Aur spot-fixing ka concept naya nahin hain. Humme pehle se hi pata tha. Three-four balls mein runs nahin aa rahe, phir suddenly, there were wide balls, no balls. Spot-fixing is a major opportunity to win.

On how a player busted a deal
SI India: OK. And you are sure about these two, **** and ****? [Two players whose names have been removed.]
Bookie: Haan. Inse meri khud baat hui hai.
SI India: Okay. Kya baat hui thi? Ek baar bataaiye.
Bookie: Jo tape mere paas thi, usme toh ek argument tha.
SI India: Jab woh shuru hota hai tape, toh usme first voice kiski hai?
Bookie: First voice humaari hai. Jab tak hum kuch bolte nahin, woh saamne se kuch nahin bolta.
SI India: Aap mein se kiski hai? Sunilji ki?
Bookie: Nahin, Tinku ki. Do tapes hain. Tinku ne kaha ki… [pauses]
SI-India: 1st tape mein Tinku ne kaha ki…
Bookie: Theek hai sab kuch. Hum paise bhijwa dete hain. Baaki saari baat pehle decide ho chuki thi, phir jab usne commitment poora nahin kiya, toh doosri baar unhone mujhe kaha ki phone laga aur pooch.
Maine kaha, “Sir kya hua? Ye gadbad kaise ho gayi? Hum toh mar gaye!’
SI India: Direct **** [Player’s name] ko phone kiya?
Bookie: Haan. Toh woh bola, ‘Behen ke…phone rakh.’
SI India: Phir?
Bookie: Phir agle din uske kisi acquaintance ka phone aaya ki aise-aise ho gaya tha. ‘*** [Reference to a Board official removed] ne gadbad kar diya. Usse pata chal gaya tha toh usne dressing room mein kaha ki aisa kuch karne ki koshish nahin karein or isiliye hum paise wapas kar rahe hain’.

On maintaining control
Bookie: Jaise 4 bande aa gaye. 25 paise ki lag gayi… 25-25-25-25… toh woh darte nahin hain… paanch-waanch lakh rupaiye ke liye. Toh woh cutting karte hain. Cutting karte. Toh match one-sided hone lagte. Toh matches palatne lag gaye. Ab woh dar gaye, chhote-chhote bookie ud gaye hain, un matches mein… kyun? Maal aage chadaate nahin thhey, bade bookie ko, khud hi dabba karte thhey, dabbe mein match palat gaye, haar gaye woh.
SI India: Oh.
Bookie: Ye Titu Bansal karaate hain ye kaam. Titu Bansal, Dr. Saab, Bobby Jailroad… Ye bade bookie hain. In pe punter nahin khelte… in pe bookiyon ki cutting jaati hain. In pe bookiyon ki cutting jaati hai, jo hummare pe dhanda aa raha hain, hum aage kaat rahein hain, beech mein se faida leke.

*SI India taped more than 400 minutes of conversation with various people involved in the bookmaking world. In some cases, the conversations were actually part of police operations, in others SI India arranged meetings with known bookies through players and the police. There are also separate conversations with players, officials and politicians. These tapes are authentic but are of course open to scrutiny. It would be ideal if the claims made on tape were to be investigated by anti-corruption and security agencies. Till official charges are made, we cannot publicly identify all of the people named on tape.

Transcript of a conversation recorded on March 31, the day after India beat Pakistan in the World Cup semifinal:
Transcript of a conversation recorded on March 31, the day after India beat Pakistan in the World Cup semifinal:
Voice: Arre uss match ka pata chala aapko?
SI-India: Kis match ka?
Voice: India–Pakistan ka. Humein toh ek message aaya tha, Bihar ke ek politician ka. Kaha, ‘Sir, yahi sahi time hai paise lagaane ka. Ab nahin lagaayenge to kab lagaayenge? `200 crore pahuncha diya hai’.
SI-India: Achcha. Kaunsa politician tha?
Voice: Ek hai, Bihar mein.
Voice 2: Apna 2-3 lakh kamaliya, chhutthi… Humme kya matlab kaun kya karta hai?

MF_COVERfinal_2nd time.inddThe original voice, in this case, was that of a politician from a national party, who has a residence in Delhi and a scrapyard business in Mumbai. He was part of a group of six men—the rest are in the property business—discussing how much money they had made off the World Cup game.
The meeting was casual, a get-together over drinks in an office in New Delhi’s posh East of Kailash, celebrating the fact that each had made between `2-3lakh, a relatively small sum in the big, bad world of illegal betting, but one, they believed, was worth it as it was as “guaranteed” as the result of the India–Pakistan game.
In a separate get-together, the property dealers casually discussed how four Pakistan players had allegedly been paid to under-perform in the game. They also spoke of how Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi couldn’t be approached: “Woh nahi aata pakad mein [He doesn’t take the bait]”, one remarked, implying that Afridi, at least, was clean.
Over the last six months, SI India has met, individually and collectively and on several occasions, with over half a dozen known bookies, players, agents and officials, and watched from the sidelines as investigative officers across agencies conducted undercover operations into organised betting syndicates and worked on tip-offs with regard to spot-fixing in cricket matches before and during the  March-April World Cup.
SI India has also tapped into the illegal world of betting through “dabba” phones—basic cell phones with modified SIMs. You can receive no incoming calls on these cell phones and only use them to dial a single pre-programmed number that takes you straight into a bookie network from where you can listen to the odds and place bets on games.
SI India has taped many of these conversations with bookies and police officers and while the tapes are authentic, some of the contents of these tapes are yet to be verified—it is still an ongoing operation—which is why names have not been printed. We have informally offered officials of both the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) access to these recordings to take this further as they please. That is their call. All the details we have here are based on sources in security agencies or police reports.
What we have verified, though, is scary in itself, especially given that it is a well known and undisputed fact that most of the money in cricket, generated legally or illegally, comes from India. Here’s why it’s all so disturbing.

A parallel world links within links
Bookies, big or small, all know or know of each other. They maintain meticulous computerised records of their dealings. The bookmakers, though they are outlaMF_COVERfinal_2nd time.inddws, have a more or less strict, organised hierarchy in their own world. A small-time bookie or a group of bookies invariably has to give a cut to a bigger local bookie referred to as a “kingpin”. The kingpin is normally someone who doesn’t maintain books, but generally makes money only from the “cuts” he takes from other bookies. He is someone with direct or indirect access to a player’s agent and, in rare cases, to a player himself. This kingpin, in turn, according to the police, gives a cut of his earnings to the underworld.
Authorities also believe that some part of that money goes back to criminal mastermind Dawood Ibrahim or to organisations controlled by the D-company. In fact, while the Dawood bogey has been raised on many occasions for many different things, there is little debate amongst agencies that the illegal betting-on-cricket business in South Asia, estimated at a whopping `20-30 billion, is controlled by India’s Public Enemy No. 1.

Easy access
What is worse, in many ways, is that local bookies and middlemen either claim to know players personally or know their agents very well. In one conversation, a top Delhi bookie’s sidekick informed us that he had called up a senior player during a T20 international because of a `5 crore spot-fixing deal that had fallen through.
While we were not privy to him calling up the player in question, the player’s personal numbers he had were correct and some of the details and team information he had were startling. This man, incidentally, is not remotely connected to cricket in any obvious way—he is not a player, a sports agent, a sponsor, an official, a mediaperson, a PR rep, a relative or a friend of a player or even a fan. To him, as he says, it’s business.

He is actually in the real estate business, as are many of the bookmakers to whom we spoke. Police authorities believe that many of those involved in the darker side of cricket call themselves “property dealers” because that is a business in which movements of cash can be easily manipulated and explained—at least for now, till the government implements its plan to seriously audit all property transactions.
Separately, a top BCCI official told SI India that the same player (who the bookie claimed to have spoken to) was also warned that he was being “watched carefully” during the Indian Premier League’s second season in South Africa.
Some BCCI officials were very concerned by the free access to players, national and international, during that second season. “Several known shady characters based in the Middle East, but not seen in India, flew into South Africa and booked rooms in the players’ hotels, both during last year’s Champions League and the IPL’s second season,” an official told SI India.Untitled-1
Another said he had ticked off a top India player’s agent, telling him to “stay away” from him when the agent came to invite him for an event in South Africa.
“I’d heard all kinds of stories about this agent, about how he fixes and arranges things, and while I don’t have solid proof about his activities, I wasn’t going to be seen in his company,” the official said.
A former India player, now the coach of a Ranji team, said he had told his players that when they were in Delhi, they were to absolutely stay away from a statemate, an India player. Why? He reportedly mixes socially with a Delhi businessman who owns a store in the upscale Khan Market area. “He [the businessman] has a reputation for being a middleman and a bookie. While the older players know better than to mix with him, I didn’t want any of the younger players to go anywhere near him,” the coach said.
Delhi players informally told SI India they were “aware” that the businessman concerned had a “shady reputation”. Officials from the Delhi Police admit they have been watching this businessman for some time now, but say they have no evidence that will stand in court to convict him. “When we do, we will get him,” said an
assistant commissioner of police (ACP).
FactsEasy information
It’s also not unusual for team information to be easily available to equally unusual quarters despite the penalties involved in passing out confidential matter.
On some of the recordings available with us there are references to team information being available to a middleman via a top player agent. There is also a casual reference to a national selector being at the receiving end of favours in exchange for bringing a certain player into the India team.
According to the version of a group of journalists who met several hours before the India-West Indies World Cup
match in Chennai (a day-nighter), they hadn’t even finished breakfast when they were told that bookies had already declared that Chris Gayle would not be playing the game.

Until that moment, there had been no indication to the mediapersons—cricket reporters all—accompanying the teams that there was anything wrong with Gayle or that he would be skipping the match. A few hours later, the news was confirmed. Gayle did not play. Someone in the know had obviously already passed on that information.
It may be recalled that in May 2008, West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels was suspended for two years by the West Indies Cricket Board disciplinary committee for breaching the ICC’s Code of Conduct. The charge: He received “money, or benefit or other reward that could bring him or the game of cricket into disrepute”. Samuels, who has repeatedly denied involvement, had allegedly been caught on tape by the Nagpur police in February 2007 for giving match-related information to an Indian bookie during the West Indies vs. India ODI series.

All in the know
The Who’s Who of this shady world, incidentally, are well known to security agencies. Officials of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) are also well aware of the rumours that frequently surface about certain players being “more approachable” and they also keep a strict watch on them.
“But there’s only so much you can do,” an ICC official told SI-India. “It’s not that we are unaware of the situation or the rumours. We also get any number of tip-offs and see which ones seem more serious. There’s so much access [to players] that it’s difficult to control everything. There’s also the fact that unless you actually catch someone in the act [of accepting or saying he will accept money], we don’t have a leg to standMF_COVERfinal_2nd time.indd on if it comes to taking action that will hold if challenged legally.”

Access is everything
It’s not just about the players being vulnerable though. Disturbingly, some of the conversations we have recorded have centred around the alleged activities of an international umpire, who, according to several bookies, is a fast friend of the mysterious “Dr. Saab”, the man who reportedly controlled betting syndicates operating in and around New Delhi during the World Cup.
The BCCI, which does not officially recognise player agents or managers because board officials believe they are easily accessible to outsiders and put players at risk, also does not seem to have the power (or the inclination) to ban these agents from travelling with players.
So while agents or managers are not allowed in or near the dressing room on match days, they have free access to players outside the stadia.
It must be mentioned here that many, if not most, of these managers have no background in the business of sport or sports administration and no training whatsoever—financial or otherwise—in handling sportsmen, forget those raking in the mega-bucks.
There was reportedly a suggestion from within that the Indian board regulate and register these agents but nothing concrete has come to fruition. Meanwhile, bookies, middlemen and businessmen run rampant in the world of cricket.
Change is the need of the hour, as is accountability, ensured by both the Indian cricket board and the Indian government. Otherwise, we run the risk of a 2000-like situation and a loss of faith, in the system, in the players and in the game itself.

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