Did the wide-ranging fallout of the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal work as a deterrent against corruption in Indian cricket? Not so, say anti-corruption (ACU) officials in the sport.
These officials say the corruptors now look to target the state leagues as well as lesser known live competitions - smaller in scale and involving more vulnerable players. "We have 50 investigations that we are undertaking and majority have links to corruptors in India," Steve Richardson, coordinator of investigations, International Cricket Council ACU said in a webinar on Sports Law and Policy on Saturday.
Of late, no high-profile Indian cricketer may have come under the lens, but the player-bookie nexus goes unabated, he said. "Players are the final link in the chain. Problem is with people who organise corruption, who pay the players; who sit outside the sport. I can deliver eight names to Indian governing agencies who are serial offenders and constantly approach the players," Richardson added.
But for Covid 19 applying the brake on all state leagues, many of them would have been on by now. The Karnataka Premier League (KPL) remains suspended and police investigations are on after some players and a team owner were charged with fixing. "The police has filed partial charge-sheets in KPL matter. We are in the process of examination of that evidence," BCCI ACU head Ajit Singh said.
"The entire malice emanates from (illegal) betting. Just to make windfall gains illegally through betting, they approach participants (players, support staff, officials, franchise owners) and the amount of money involved is unimaginable - an annual turnover of R30,000-40,000 crore; including sports and other activities. In state leagues, we got betting examined on certain matches and we discovered it comes to the tune of more than 2 million pounds per match," said Singh.
ACU officials say nothing will change until match-fixing is made a criminal offence in India. "Sri Lanka was the first nation that brought a match-fixing law. For that reason, Sri Lanka cricket is better protected now. In Australia's case, we are very proactive. At the moment, with no legislation in place in India, they are operating with one hand tied up," said Richardson.
A robust law would also help protect ICC events better. "In Australia, they can stop someone coming to their country before the tournament. India too has ICC events coming up with the T20 World Cup (2021) and the 2023 ODI World Cup. Legislation would be a game changer."
Singh said there would be a strong deterrent if the pending Prevention of Sports Fraud bill became law. "Fans put in a huge amount of emotion and this (fixing) happens… It starts at an early stage; those who are in sports betting nurture these players and start using them later for fixing. It needs to be curbed. For that you need a strong law. Currently it is archaic, and some of the conditions are laughable."