India IPL cricket fans despair over spot-fixing claims

Activists of Kalinga Sena, a local political party, hold placards as they burn a poster of Indian cricketer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth at a protest against spot fixing during the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Bhubaneswar, India, Friday, May 17, 2013
Image caption There have been protests against the tournament

Police in India have carried out fresh arrests amid a widening investigation into alleged spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. Last week, they arrested three players including international cricket star S Sreesanth in connection with the scandal. The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder looks at how this is affecting the glamorous and lucrative tournament.

It is match-day at the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world's richest cricket tournament.

As the Rajasthan Royals team bus draws into the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium in the capital, Delhi, there is a buzz all around.

Thousands of fans snake around the ground as they make their way in, closely watched by hundreds of policemen.

It is the colourful, festive atmosphere that one has come to associate with the glamorous, fun-filled world of the IPL.

Fans sport their team colours, some have their cheeks painted, others are wearing multi-coloured wigs.


"We are here to support the Royals - all the way," shout some of them as they walk past.

But the Royals, an understated team with a surprisingly successful record in this year's IPL, has also had a forgettable week.

Three of their players are in police custody following allegations that they underperformed in exchange for money from bookies.

The fans are distraught but, for now, are still backing their team.

"It's devastating to learn that players from the team that you support have been caught doing this," says one fan.

A young woman says it is upsetting and they feel helpless.

"It should not be happening. But there's absolutely nothing we can do about it."

There's even a sense of fatalism.

"This is India. This happens. People gamble on the match, the outcome and many players are corrupt," says a fan.

Image caption Fast bowler S Sreesanth is among the players held over spot-fixing claims

"But it's still entertaining. And we'll still come to the games," he says as his friends nod in agreement.

Gambling on cricket is illegal in India.

But it has always existed - operating in a shadowy world where bets are placed through mobile phone calls or even through the internet.

There are allegations that Mumbai crime syndicates are heavily involved.

'Parallel universe'

"This parallel universe always existed," says Latika Khaneja, a former sports manager who has represented some of India's leading cricket players.

"There were always the bookies and people who were trying to get close to the players and get into the dressing room to find players who would work for them."

What has changed with the IPL is the pool of players that it has generated.

"With nine teams and 300 players the number of players available to throw matches and fix matches increased manifold," says Ms Khaneja.

Now the fear is that the rot might run deeper.

The Indian Express and other newspapers have quoted unnamed police officers as saying that a number of other players are under their scanner and may include foreign players.

Back at the Ferozeshah Kotla, jubilant Rajasthan Royals fans stream out after their play-off match against the Hyderabad Sunrisers.

Their team has won but only just.

The next day, police in Maharashtra state arrest three bookies and recover several mobile phone SIM cards, handsets and laptops.

They are alleged to have bet on the outcome of the Rajasthan Royals-Hyderabad Sunrisers match.

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