Indian conmen hire labourers to play sham IPL matches for Russian betters

Matches were staged at farm in Gujarat and streamed on YouTube for people placing bets in Moscow, Tver and Voronezh

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Ð April 23 , 2014 : Crowd during the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings vs Rajasthan Royals at Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Sports. Story by Ahmed
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Police in India have arrested a gang of conmen on charges of organising a sham Indian Premier League tournament to defraud Russian betters, with the criminals having farm labourers pose as cricketers.

Authorities in Mehsana in western Gujarat state arrested four people over the betting racket that staged the fake IPL matches at a remote farm in Molipur village. The sham tournament had reached the quarter-finals stage before it was busted on Sunday.

The gang organised their tournament three weeks after the cash-rich and hugely popular IPL tournament concluded on May 29.

The fake tournament featured a ground complete with a pitch, boundary lines and halogen lamps and used five HD cameras, crowd-noise sound effects to make the matches look authentic.

A fake umpire gave signals from the pitch and computer-generated graphics displayed the match scores.

An impersonator from Meerut city in Uttar Pradesh state was hired to mimic famous commentator Harsha Bhogle.

The matches, played by 21 labourers and unemployed villagers, were live-streamed on YouTube for IPL-obsessed Russian betters who placed bets from the cities of Moscow, Tver and Voronezh through the Telegram messaging service, police said.

The “players” were paid 400 rupees ($5) per game.

But the scheme came to an end after police received a tip-off and raided the cricket ground last Thursday.

Police said the “chief organiser” Shoeb Davda had returned to Molipur after working for eight months at a Russian pub and arranged the fake IPL tournament with the help of three locals.

“During his stay in Russia, Shoeb learnt about cricket betting … he hired a farm and installed halogen lights there and readied farm labourers. Next, he hired cameramen and bought T-shirts of IPL teams,” police officer Bhavesh Rathod said.

“Shoeb would take live bets over the Telegram channel. He would instruct Kolu, the umpire, over a walkie-talkie to signal fours and sixes. Kolu communicated the same to the batsman and the bowler. Acting on the instructions, the bowler would deliver a slow ball, enabling the batsman to hit it for a four or a six,” Mr Rathod said.

Betting on sports is illegal in India, with horse races the only exception. However there are as yet no formal laws or regulatory bodies for online betting.

Indian police broke up a similar scheme in 2020 when a cricket tournament staged in a village in Punjab was passed off as a Twenty20 contest played in Sri Lanka.

Local cricket players wearing Sri Lankan jerseys were offered small sums to play at a ground festooned with advertisements for Sri Lankan companies on farmland screened by tents to keep it a secret.

The matches were broadcast with live commentary on YouTube along with ball-by-ball coverage as people from India and Sri Lanka placed millions of rupees' worth of bets.

Updated: July 11, 2022, 3:25 PM
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