The betting and spot-fixing cases have not come as a surprise for those who have seen the Indian Twenty20 league from the inside. They feel the event was a target for the betting syndicate from the start.
Owners, senior management and players have all had to be mindful of the traps laid by the mafia at every step. V Shankar, former chairman of Deccan Chargers Sports Ventures Limited, recalls how the betting men relentlessly chased the team management, and talks about his own experience during the 2009 edition played in South Africa, which Chargers won.
“In the semifinals, we were pitted against Delhi Daredevils. A day before the match, a gentleman guarded by at least 7-8 bouncers came to my room. A cricket official followed him and requested me to show some courtesy as he was a big businessman from the country.
How it happened
“He asked me if we were going to win the match. I answered in the affirmative, but he enquired again. Despite my saying twice, he kept asking. I got a bit irritated. He then revealed he was going to bet 600,000 rand on my team,” said Shankar.
“I didn’t react as I knew betting was legal in South Africa. He then asked me to spell out my share. I declined the offer but he called again after we won. I told him to call a day after the final, which he did. We were visiting the Johannesburg Institute of Social Science and I told him, ‘if you want to do something, donate 100,000 rand to the institute’. The man, who owned a big mine in the country and was of Indian origin, was surprised but happily contributed 200,000 rand.”
Shankar kept him at arm’s length, but feels not everyone can. For some it’s greed; others are simply vulnerable, like players from small towns. Understan-ding this was the key to the Chargers coming from nowhere to win in 2009.
It was a star-studded team but also had South Africa opener Herschelle Gibbs, whose name figured in the 2000 match-fixing scandal. “We were aware he was vulnerable and made it a point to always have our security men watch over him so that he was not targeted. It worked, and he turned out to be one of our key players,” said Shankar.
“In the final, Gibbs was scoring slowly. We sent a message but he said he had to stay there till the end because if he got out, the batting would collapse. He was dead right and his innings won us the game,” he recalled.
Shankar said he offered players extra money for scoring faster, hitting fours, bowling dot balls etc. The Chargers spent more than $85,000 in 2009 and $125,000 the next year to motivate the players and prevent outsiders from influencing them.
“Bowlers and coaches are the weakest links as far as betting is concerned,” he said.
Knowing that domestic players were more vulnerable, he ens-ured there were more incentives for them. “We gave them 1.5 times more money compared to international players. The limelight is on the star players and these domestic players feel left out. So, when these fixers pay attention to them, they get carried away.”