Former Abu Dhabi T10 franchise co-owner arrested in corruption crackdown

Ashfaq Ali Thara, who co-owned former T10 winners the Kerala Kings, is under investigation in India for illegal betting

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 17:  Eoin Morgan of Kerela Kings celebrates after reacing his half century during the T10 League Final match between Kerela Kings and Punjabi Legends at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on December 17, 2017 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
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Organisers of the Abu Dhabi T10 have moved to distance themselves from a controversy in India which has seen a former co-owner of a franchise arrested for illegal betting.

Ashfaq Ali Thara was arrested in Bangalore on Tuesday, as part of a corruption crackdown in cricket in the country.

That investigation is believed to relate to his role as an owner of a team in the Karnataka Premier League, a state-level Twenty20 competition in India.

Last year, he had also been one of three co-owners of Kerala Knights, the franchise which won the T10 League in its first season in 2017.

However, Shaji Ul Mulk, the T10 founder and chairman, said Thara had not been set to be involved in the 10-over competition in the forthcoming campaign, even before the latest reports had emerged.

“Ali Ashfaq was never part of ownership structure for the 2019 season for the Kerala Knights team as he did not pay his franchise fees,” Ul Mulk said.

“The league had already notified him that, as he was in default of the payment, his ownership was not confirmed.”

Thara is reportedly under investigation for placing bets with a bookmaker outside India, as well as a possible role in fixing matches.

“He has been arrested for betting and they are investigating other aspects,” Ajit Singh, the head of the anti-corruption unit of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, was quoted as saying by AFP.

The news is the latest episode in a busy off-season for the T10 competition, which has seen an almost total revamp of the league, ahead of its start at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on November 15.

Kerala Knights had already asked the competition’s organisers to change their name to Gujarati Panthers. Ul Mulk says they have forwarded the request to the ICC for it to be ratified.

If that is approved, more than half of the eight-team competition will either be entirely new to the league, or at least have a new name when its first season in Abu Dhabi gets under way.

Pakhtoons, the team for which Shahid Afridi played in the first two seasons of T10, will no longer be part of the league.

They have been replaced by a new franchise called Bangla Tigers, which hopes to attract support from the UAE’s Bangladeshi expatriate community.

Afridi will still be involved, however. It was announced earlier this week he will be the marquee player for Team Qalandars, an offshoot of the Pakistan Super League team based in Lahore.

Karachians are under new ownership and will be known as the Deccan Gladiators, while the Bengal Tigers will now be known as the Delhi Bulls.