A group of unemployed men in Gujarat state have been arrested for conning Russian gamblers into betting on a fake cricket event. The scam came to light after an anonymous tip-off led police to investigate and discover that the fake games were being broadcast from a remote location in Molipur village.
Century Hitters T20
Fake cricket games are regularly run in India and are purely for the purpose of enticing gamblers in so the result can be fixed.
Joy Bhattacharjya, a sports producer and a former director of an IPL team, said:
“Organisers live-stream these fixed games, where the umpires openly give instructions to players. They are completely staged.”
Police in the Mehsana district of Gujarat raided the makeshift cricket ground after more than nine games had been played and confiscated the player’s kits, cameras and speakers.
The speakers were used to play fake commentary and crowd noises that had been downloaded from the internet.
It looks like the organisers went to great lengths to make the Century Hitters T20 tournament look as professional as possible. Six teams were named after different Indian states and locals were paid 400 rupees ($5; £4.22) to turn out as the players and officials in proper kit.
A pair of high-definition cameras were then used to stream the “matches” on YouTube with a graphics overlay befitting a TV broadcast. What was missing, however, was a crowd, but that didn’t seem to matter with the camera focussing close in on the action.
One of the organisers would even provide commentary in the style of a well-known pundit.
The games would then be fixed by the umpires receiving instructions via walkie-talkie based on what bets were coming in through a dedicated Telegram channel.
Weirdly, there wasn’t any clear explanation how it came to be mostly Russian gamblers who would be found embroiled in this scam. Unless we believe it was exclusively as Bhavesh Rathod, the officer investigating the case, said when he told how one of the suspects used to work in a bar in Russia and encouraged them to bet on cricket.
“I have never seen a scam like this. These guys just cleared a patch of land deep inside a village and began playing a match and beaming it on YouTube to make money through gambling. Even the local villagers were not aware of this. We know very little about the Russians who were putting bets on this game.”