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It’s said that Russian punters will bet on anything. And so it has proved after an ingenious cricket betting scam in India was busted by local police.
Cricket, perhaps the oldest codified sport in the world, is something of a religion for India’s billion-plus people.
Although gambling on the sport, officially, is illegal in the South Asian nation, there is widespread wagering on results and performance in the top flight Indian Premier League (IPL) – and a host of lesser cricket leagues and competitions.
From match fixing and game throwing in one-day games held in the United Arab Emirates, to Ranji Trophy matches in Kolkata; the Indian cricket scene has been regularly wracked by scandal and accusations of skullduggery.
Now, the temptation to bet on the myriad outcomes of this most complex and myriad of sports, perhaps fortified by its arcane rules and infinite permutations, has captured the interest of everyday Boris and Ivan.
Police in India’s western state of Gujarat—the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi himself, and the country’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi–have arrested a group of conmen who set up a fake version of the IPL.
Paying land labourers and students, outfitted in IPL team kits, the princely sum of INR400 (around £4) a game, they staged a full-blooded cricket match on a farm, with bogus umpires and even voice-over mimicking the inimitable delivery of Harsha Bhogle, India’s most famous sports commentator.
The matches were broadcast live over a YouTube channel called, yes, you’ve guessed it, IPL.
By the simple expedient of never showing a wide shot of the pitch, using canned crowd noise to boost atmospherics and not being tempted to mimic the acerbic, yet entertaining, pseudo-observations of professional Yorkshireman Sir Geoffrey Boycott, another famous IPL know-it-all, the channel ran for several weeks before the police stopped play.
Indian Police Inspector Bhavesh Rathod told reporters that Russian gamblers placed bets on the mock IPL cricket games via a Telegram channel set up by the gang.
In all, the Russians wagered some “three Lakhs,” said Insp. Rathod, meaning INR300,000 — the equivalent of £3,174/US$3,758/€3,733.
“They installed a cricket pitch, complete with boundary lines and halogen lamps”, explained the policeman. “They set up high-resolution cameras on the ground and used computer generated graphics to display scores on a live streaming screen.
“The fake umpire would then signal the bowler and batsman to hit a six, four or get out,” he said.
Police have arrested four people in connection with the case. They have been charged with criminal conspiracy and gambling.
Reports that the accused players have asked for a DRS Decision Review of their case by legal umpires have not been confirmed.