Police in the Kharar district of Punjab are investigating how a fraudulent Uva T20 Premier League, which falsely stated that it was being held in Sri Lanka with Sri Lankan players participating, was being held in the state and what was the purpose behind hosting such an event, according to a report by The Indian Express.
The report stated that the T20 tournament was live streamed on YouTube, with commentators saying that the matches were being held in Badulla in Sri Lanka. But the games were actually being played at a ground in Sawara village, which is 16 kilometres from Chandigarh off Punjab State Highway 12A.
The players who participated were allegedly locals from Punjab and they had covered their faces with masks. The live coverage of the matches on YouTube didn’t have any close-up shots of the players so it was difficult to identify them.
The Uva T20 League had named Sri Lankan cricketers Tillakaratne Dilshan, Farveez Maharoof, Thilan Tushara and Ajantha Mendis as their captains and marquee players. But the cricketers as well as the Sri Lankan board denied that they were associated with the event.
Perhaps, the most concerning aspect about this revelation is that the matches were streamed by FanCode, whose parent company is Dream Sports. One of the brands of Dream Sports is the popular fantasy sports platform Dream 11, which is, in fact, one of the sponsors of the Indian Premier League.
The report by The Indian Express quoted a FanCode spokesperson as saying: “We were in touch with the organisers who provided us with the Letter of Sanction from Uva Province Cricket Association along with an email from the official email ID of Sri Lanka Cricket that provided confirmation of the tournament.”
FanCode stopped live streaming the tournament after the first two matches on day one on June 29. It has now been learnt that two people have been arrested by the Punjab police on charges related to cheating and gambling.
A reason why matches of such leagues are streamed is so that people watching anywhere can place bets and bookies can then make money by ways of spot-fixing or match-fixing.
“Our process is on. When we will know about the people involved, we will update our database. We would like to know who was involved. However, only police can take action on this. As a BCCI enforcement agency, we have no jurisdiction over it,” Board of Control for Cricket in India anti-corruption chief Ajit Singh told PTI.
“If it was a BCCI approved league or had players’ participation, we could have taken against them. If this is done for the purpose of betting, it is a criminal offence and police has the jurisdiction over, we don’t,” he added.
In a statement, the Sri Lanka Cricket said “neither SLC nor its affiliates have any knowledge or any involvement with a fantasy tournament staged by an undisclosed party under the name and title of Uva Premier League T20.”
“It was noted that several Indian websites have even advertised a scoreboard on June 29 stating that the Uva Premier League T20 is being played at the Badulla Stadium, but SLC wishes to confirm that no such tournament was taking place and or will be held in Sri Lanka,” the statement added.
SLC CEO Ashley De Silva said he has directed the anti-corruption officer to look into the matter.
“As such, SLC wishes to clarify that the said tournament is neither sanctioned by SLC nor organised by any of its affiliates and therefore, SLC assumes no responsibility with regard to the said tournament,” the statement from the Lankan Board read.
The SLC said it “has resorted to taking appropriate legal actions to prevent such incidents.”
Bhagiradhan Balachandran, assistant secretary of the Uva Province Cricket Association in Sri Lanka, said somebody took advantage of their inactivity.
“No such tournament was approved or held by our association. We are investigating this matter and are in discussion with Sri Lanka Cricket,” Bhagiradhan told PTI from Badulla.
“The whole thing seems like a farce. We are not the most active cricket association in Sri Lanka, so somebody did proper research on that and used our name. We have no idea about this and no Sri Lankan players were involved,” he added.
An investigation is in progress, said Mohali’s Senior Superintendent of Police Kuldeep Singh Chahal.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Kharar Pal Singh said they had received an online complaint about the game following which two persons identified as Pankaj Jain and Raju were arrested on Thursday night.
“A case under Section 420 IPC (cheating) has been registered by the police. As per preliminary investigations, betting could be going on in the match which was held. Further investigations into the case are under progress,” Chahal told PTI.
Asked about the match going ahead despite the Covid-19 lockdown, Chahal said, “All this is being investigated, that is why we have registered a case.”
There were plenty of reactions to this story on Twitter with people wondering how such a stunt could be pulled-off by the organisers of the Uva T20 League. Many even demanded more accountability from FanCode.
(With inputs from PTI)