The three Rajasthan Royals players arrested for fixing in the domestic T20 league confessed to their crime, police claimed on Friday, adding that they suspected others from a second franchise and were investigating at least one match from last year.
Indian cricket’s latest sordid tryst with controversy looked set to take another turn with intelligence sources saying that senior players, players’ wives and administrators could also be under the scanner.
Test discard S Sreesanth and lesser-known players Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila admitted wrongdoing during their interrogation, police officials said.
The grilling happened after a night spent in police custody in south Delhi, with Sreesanth lodged in an office suite until recently occupied by Inspector Badrish Dutt, the man who initiated the investigation into fixing but who died under mysterious circumstances last week.
Police officials said that Sreesanth told them he had committed a ‘mistake’ and that he was ‘sorry’. “He disclosed that he was trapped into the scam by his close friend Jiju Janardhanan,” sources said, adding that Sreesanth, Chavan and Amit Singh, a cricketer-turned-bookie who is also in custody, broke down and wept when they were being grilled.
Transcripts of telephone conversations accessed by Hindustan Times showed that Janardhanan, negotiating with bookie Chandresh Patel, is emphatic that Sreesanth would not take the risk of getting involved unless he got 50% of the amount before the match started.
Sreesanth’s lawyer Deepak Prakash, however, maintained his client was innocent, saying that Sreesanth had never talked to a bookie and never received any money.
“He is completely innocent and there was no phone call with any bookie or any person involved in this case,” he said.
Police are also looking at a match between Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals, played last year at Delhi’s Feroze Shah Kotla stadium, in which the Royals failed to win despite requiring only a dozen runs from as many deliveries with eight wickets in hand.
The interrogation of arrested bookies has revealed that apart from the disgraced trio, they had also attempted to lure five foreign players and three Indian cricketers, playing for Rajasthan Royals and another team whose name was withheld by police, into the spot-fixing racket.
It has also emerged that bookmakers had tried to persuade three other Rajasthan Royals players Brad Hodge, Kevon Cooper and Siddharth Trivedi, to attend a party thrown by them at Jaipur on April 8, but the players had not shown up. Sources said investigators could also be looking at their role.
A Rajasthan Royals spokesman said: "These are private parties. It is the player's prerogative to attend or not," and declined to comment when asked if police were looking into the conduct of three more Royals players.