Police shut down hoax Indian cricket league used to dupe Russian gamblers

·2-min read
Police said players took turns wearing the jerseys of the Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images)
Police said players took turns wearing the jerseys of the Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images)

An elaborate hoax cricket league, streamed to YouTube and bet on by unsuspecting punters in Russia, has been shut down by Indian police.

A group of men in the state of Gujarat, in western India, are alleged to have hired a field in which they set up cameras and asked local farm labourers and unemployed young people to don team uniforms and play cricket.

Paying the would-be competitors 400 rupees (£4.20) per match, the scammers used computer-generated graphics to display scores on a live streaming screen, downloaded crowd-noise sound effects from the internet and found someone skilled at imitating one of IPL’s real commentators, police said.

Four men have now been arrested over the set-up, which was contrived along the lines of the popular Indian Premier League, albeit using fake team names, misleading camera angles, and starting three weeks after the real tournament concluded in May.

But the racket, which organisers dubbed the “Indian Premier Cricket League”, is reported to have reached the quarter-final stage before it was busted by police.

“They had umpires with walkie-talkie sets to officiate as they have in IPL and international cricket matches,” Achal Tyagi, the top police official in Mehsana district told Reuters on Monday.

“The setup was good enough to trick unsuspecting people into believing it was a genuine cricket league.”

The supposed matches were then streamed on YouTube to unsuspecting betting operations in Russia, who bet on match outcomes, Mr Tyagi said.

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Not only did the walkie-talkies help to build the illusion of a professional league, they also facilitated the manipulation of the matches’ outcome.

In fact, the umpires were telling players whether to hit a six, four or get out, depending on the instructions they received from organisers using the walkie-talkies.

They in turn were receiving instructions from a “Russia-based mastermind” on the Telegram app, where unsuspecting punters placed their bets, police said.

Betting on cricket is illegal in India, and the four arrested have been charged with criminal conspiracy and gambling, local officials said.

The accused had received a first instalment of more than 300,000 rupees (£3,170) from bettors in Russia, police inspector Bhavesh Rathod was reported as saying by Agence France-Presse.

IPL, the world’s richest T20 league, was embroiled in an illegal betting scandal in 2013 which led to two-year suspensions for its Chennai and Rajasthan franchises.

The 10-team league’s popularity could be gauged from the sale of its media rights for the next five years, which fetched the organising Indian cricket board £5.2bn last month.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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