Fake Indian Premier League Created to Trick Russian Cricket Gamblers

The Indian Premier League is one of the most popular sports tournaments in the world for bettors, with countless people around the world placing bets on all sorts of aspects of the play. Whenever large numbers of people are betting on something, you can be sure that someone, somewhere will be looking to cheat the market and make money in an illicit manner. There is perhaps no better example of this than the gan that set up a fake version of the IPL in order to dupe Russian punters to place money on the ‘matches’ that were taking place, the outcome of which was being decided by the ring-leader and carried out by the actors.

Betting & the IPL

IPL logoIn India, the majority of betting is illegal. As a result, there is a huge illegal betting market that is worth more than £100 billion a year, including around £200 million that is bet on each day of an international match played by the Indian cricket team. One United Nations report suggested that illegal betting could be worth as much as $4 trillion globally, so it isn’t hard to imagine the desire of some to take advantage of that. One of the most popular markets for people to bet on is the Indian Premier League, which began in 2008 and has grown exponentially since then, seeing many of the world’s best cricketers taking part.

The IPL is contested by ten city-based teams that are franchises, with the contest typically taking place between March and May each year. It has been given an exclusive window in the ICC Future Tours Programme, which means that there are fewer international tours taking place during IPL seasons. It was ranked sixth in the world among all leading sports in terms of attendance in 2014, whilst the 2023 final was the most-streamed live event on the internet thanks to the 32 million viewers

that tuned in to watch. In other words, there are a lot of people tuning in to see what’s happening in the IPL and a lot of them will place bets on it.

What Happened

The Indian Premier League has not been clear of controversy over the years, such as in 2012 when one player was banned and four others suspended after spot-fixing allegations were made. That wasn’t the last time that spot-fixing was believed to be a problem for the IPL either, with more allegations emerging a year later. What all that meant was that the groundwork was already in place for people to feel as though the IPL was a sporting competition with questionable integrity. It also has to be acknowledged that some people can be quite racist towards people in other parts of the world, especially the likes of India and Pakistan.

The latter assertion is important because of how the fake Indian Premier League worked, which didn’t look anything like the real thing to those who knew what they were watching for but might well have past muster for anyone who was happy to look down on the likes of the IPL as a sporting contest. The first sign that those placing bets on what they were watching might not have been the keenest of fans of the Indian Premier League comes in the fact that the fake league began a few weeks after the actual IPL season had already been concluded, which was evidently a fact that escaped the attention of the bettors.

Those looking to pull the con against some Russian bettors looked to the Mehsana district of Gujarat in order to rent a farm in Molipur village. As many as 21 farm labourers as well as local school children were then hired, with colourful uniforms given to the to wear that matched teams such as the Mumbai Indians, Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings. The ‘cricketers’ were paid around $5 per day in order to carry out their roles, whilst HD cameras were used in order to film what was happening. There was obviously no crowd, but this was dealt with by the focus being put onto the ‘players’ and the ‘umpire’.

There wasn’t an umpire, of course, so instead a man wearing a white coat and grey trousers was used. There was also fake crowd noise added courtesy of some speakers, as well as some computer graphics that leant the entire thing a sense of realism. The piece de resistance came in the form of an impersonator, who did commentary on what was happening in the style of Harsha Bhogle, one of the IPL’s most famous and recognisable commentators. The ‘umpires’ had walkie-talkies, which is the same in the IPL, only theirs were used to relay messages about what the ‘cricketers’ should do from one minute to the next.

Using Telegram

The main organiser of the fake Indian Premier League matches was later found out to be Shoeb Davda, who used the mobile app Telegram in order to take bets off some Russian punters. Depending on what the Russians were betting on, orders would be issued to the fake umpires to say that the cricketers had hit a four, a six or got out. Using this method, the criminal gang was able to ensure that it made as much money as possible each time bets were placed. The fact that the fake IPL featured a ‘cricket pitch with ‘boundary lines and halogen’ lamps was all part of the reason why it was able to last for as long as it did and keep taking bets.

The Russian punters placed their bets via a Telegram channel that had been set up by the gang responsible for the whole thing, lasting through to the quarter-final stage of the competition. More than 300,000 rupees had already been paid to the accused by the time that the local police arrived on scene and broke it up. Reminiscent of the movie The Sting starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, in which a group of con artists defraud a gangster by setting up a fake betting operation, the entire story was given a modern twist thanks to the use of the mobile app to both take the bets and communicate instructions.

Not the Only Fake League

What made the entire story even more interesting is the fact that the India Times later reported that the fake Indian Premier League matches taking place in Gujarat were not even the only fake cricket matches that the gang behind it were running. A few days later a similar fake cricket league was busted in Meerut by the Uttar Pradesh Police. Going by the name of ‘Big Boss T20 Punjab League’, the organisers were able to lure punters into placing bets courtesy of an app call ‘Cric Heroes’. The matches in Meerut had been taking place for ‘four or five months’, according to the Superintendent of Police, Deepak Bhuker.

An analysis was done on WhatsApp messages and calls that revealed that numerous members of the ‘gang’ behind it all were from Russia, whilst another number led to someone in Pakistan. The investigations led the police to the believe that the overall mastermind of the entire thing was one Ashoke Chaudhary, who worked alongside someone called Asif Muhammad to run the league from Russia. Though the Gujarat matches were sold as being from the Indian Premier League, those in Meerut were merely ‘Ranji-level players’. Obviously that made little difference to the bettors, who were simply addicted to betting on T20 games.

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