Betting scandal throws Indian Premier League into turmoil

IPL Trophy

Cricket’s Indian Premier League has been thrown into turmoil after a Supreme
Court-appointed panel suspended two of the eight teams after officials were
found guilty of illegally betting on matches.

Chennai Super Kings, led by India’s one-day international captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and
the Royals, skippered by Australian star Steve Smith, had hoped to escape with
heavy fines but the panel was in no mood for leniency.

It also banned Gurunath Meiyappan — the son-in-law of Narayanaswami Srinivasan,
the Chennai franchise owner and the current boss of the International Cricket
Council — for life from cricket-related activities.

And a similar punishment was handed down to Raj Kundra, co-owner of the Rajasthan
team and husband of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty.

“Their conduct has affected the image of the game, the players and others
associated with the tournament,” the panel’s chairman Rajendra Mal Lodha
told reporters while announcing the verdict in the capital New Delhi.

Asked about the financial losses of players, Lodha said: “We did not consider
financial losses to players and teams. That is not significant.

“The integrity of the game is what matters,” added Lodha who is a
former chief justice.

The outcome could have major financial consequences for the glitzy Twenty20
league which draws some of the biggest names in world cricket and raises questions
over the future of the two franchises which are both former champions.

It was not immediately clear whether the two franchises can be sold, thus allowing
the cricketers to continue to be part of the IPL which is overseen by the Board
of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the BCCI, said the board would give its full
observations after reading the entire report but was “committed to honour
and respect judicial decisions”.

“The BCCI is committed to ensuring transparency, accountability and cleansing
the sport in order to restore the faith and confidence of millions of cricket
loving people in the glorious game of cricket in general and IPL in particular,”
Dalmiya added in a board statement.

Lodha said that “huge injury has been caused to the image of cricket which
is a passion for millions of people”.

“The purity of the game has been affected. Fans feel cheated and doubts
abound if the IPL is clean.”

Lodha was appointed head of the sentencing panel in January after the Supreme
Court had found Kundra and Meiyappan guilty of betting on the outcome of matches
in 2013.

“Meiyappan was an integral part of the team,” said Lodha. “By
regularly placing bets he acted in gross violations of the rules of the game.
He suffered a loss of 6,000,000 rupees (more than $94,700) in bets.”

The hugely popular Chennai Super Kis are the most successful team in the IPL,
having won the tournament in 2010 and 2011. They finished runners-up in 2008,
2012, 2013 and 2015.

Rajasthan Royals won the inaugural event in 2008 under the captaincy of Australian
spin legend Shane Warne, but have failed to make the final since then.

Royals’ co-owner Kundra expressed shock late Tuesday with the decision taken
against him.

“Many inaccuracies…Have requested for a copy of the judgement – obviously
very shocked and disappointed… #Faith,” he posted on Twitter.

Cricinfo editor Sambit Bal however hailed it as a “massive decision and
positive one” on the micro-blogging website, saying “the judges have
done what the BCCI should have done long ago”.

The 2013 IPL season was mired in controversy after police launched legal proceedings
against several officials and three Rajasthan Royals players, including former
Test fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, for illegal betting and spot-fixing.

The IPL, which is broadcast around the world, is hugely popular in India with
its mix of sport and showbiz, with a number of teams fronted by big Bollywood
names.

But it has been continuously dogged by corruption allegations and on Monday
Hiken Shah, a first-class player from Mumbai, was suspended over an approach
he made to an unnamed team-mate before this year’s tournament in April-May.

International news organisations including Agence France-Presse have suspended
on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since 2012 after the board imposed
restrictions on picture agencies.

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