New Delhi: The spectre of fixing came back to haunt Indian cricket on Monday when a news channel aired a sting operation alleging illegal activity in the IPL, to which the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) responded with a strongly worded press release, saying those involved will not remain unpunished if proven guilty.
The news channel reported that many Indian and international players playing in the ongoing IPL were involved in match-fixing. It added that a few team owners were also involved in influencing the outcome of the matches. Some players in the sting operation, one of whom was alleged to be Kings XI Punjab player Shalabh Srivastava, also disclosed that they have tried to negotiate a bigger financial contract with some of the other IPL franchises, a serious non-adherence to the IPL player guidelines. The sting also conveyed that once the deal is finalised the players are paid under the table, and that match-fixing was not only prevalent in the IPL but also in first-class matches with beautiful women playing a key role.
Sahara India Pariwar - who owns Pune Warriors India, for whom Mohnish Mishra, one of the players shown in the sting, plays - denied that it has paid any amount in cash or otherwise to Mishra or any other player, over and above the maximum amount permissible by BCCI for any such player.
The BCCI also sprung into action and responded to the sting, saying that it was examining the tapes to confirm whether the claims have any veracity. The board's honorary secretary Sanjay Jagdale released a statement a couple of hours after the news of the operation broke out. "Some TV channels have been reporting a story pertaining to alleged unacceptable practices by players participating in the IPL. The BCCI will not tolerate any violation of regulations and any act of corruption. The complete footage of the 'sting operation', will be sought and examined thoroughly. The GC [Governing Council] will meet on an emergent basis to review the footage and take appropriate strict action," it read.
BCCI sources have also revealed that the board has instructed all the team owners to isolate the players allegedly shown in the sting operation.
When asked about the sting operation, BCCI chief N Srinivasan said, "We will ensure that the integrity of the game is protected. BCCI believes in the integrity of the game. We will take the strictest possible action. We will have to have the tapes and the moment we see it, whoever is the player, we will take very, very strict action.
"If there is any truth in it ... It is a fact that we will take strictest action. Even if it means suspending the player immediately. But [that has to be] based on some evidence and fact, for which I have asked the COO of IPL, Sundar Raman, to request for the tape."
However, when CNN-IBN spoke to Srivastava, one of the players alleged to be shown in the sting footage, he denied his involvement and threatened legal action against the news channel.
"I am shocked… What the TV channel [that did the sting operation] has done is wrong... I have never seen anything like this in the IPL... I will take legal action against the people who have done this," the 30-year-old bowler said.
Shalabh also said that he was approached by a certain group, claiming to be the members of a sports management company. But he denied contacting them. "These people who approached [me] have been in touch with me for the past year. They told me that they belong to a sports agency... I have not agreed to any deal," he said.
He also termed the whole incident as disgusting because he hasn't played a single game for Punjab in the ongoing season. "I have not bowled a [even a single] no-ball. In fact, I have not played any IPL or Ranji [Trophy] match this year," Shalabh, who has played 14 matches for KXIP in the past two seasons, said. He also added that he has full faith in the BCCI and if asked by the board, he is ready to face any inquiry. "I have complete faith in the BCCI. They have their own anti-corruption unit. If they ask me to appear before any such panel, I will do it willingly."
He also said that he has got support from his franchise, which has been in touch with him ever since the news broke out. "People from Kings XI [Punjab] have been in touch with me. I have their support and they trust me," he added.