By C. Rajshekhar Rao
Police arrested test bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth and two other Indian cricketers over allegations of spot-fixing during a domestic Twenty20 tournament.
"It is with considerable regret and anguish that I pronounce the arrest of three players - namely Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila – and seven bookies and their assistants," Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said. "There was an agreement that the players would give away a minimum amount of runs in an over."
A magistrate later ordered the players into police custody for five days to enable investigation.
Spot-fixing involves performing in a pre-determined way at set times for the benefit of gamblers. Kumar said the bowlers, all of whom play for a Rajasthan-based team, gave signals such as rotating a watch or hanging a towel at the waist before giving away the minimum number of runs decided upon. Kumar said up to 6 million rupees (US$110,000) were given for such an over.
"We had specific information about spot-fixing and soon came to know that these three players were involved. Our team was at each venue where they played because signals could have been given even during commercial breaks," said Kumar, whose officials also read out transcripts of alleged phone conversations between bookies and players.
All three cricketers, who face charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy, have been suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
"As of now, the 3 players ... stand suspended pending enquiry," the BCCI said in a statement. "Strictest action will be taken, if found guilty."
Sreesanth has the highest profile among the players detained by police, having played 27 test matches and 53 limited-overs internationals for India.
Former International Cricket Council chief Sharad Pawar called for quick and strong action.
The domestic league "has given substantial financial support to players and this is unforgivable," Pawar said. "The BCCI has to take strict action against the players. The suspension announced is the right kind of action but it should not stop there. There should be a thorough enquiry and, if proven, they should be banned for life."
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly called for a life ban on the players if found guilty.
"Nobody can prevent corruption other than players," Ganguly told the CNN-IBN news channel. "It's about individuals and nobody can force you to bowl a no-ball or a wide. The players found guilty should be banned for life."
Former India allrounder Kirti Azad, now an Indian lawmaker, said there wasn't enough of a deterrent against spot-fixing.
"This had to happen and will happen again because enough action is not taken against such people," he said. "Bans of a year or two will not help.
People should get life bans, or else no one will be able to stop this menace. Cricket is considered a religion here (in India) but it is only bringing disrepute."
Last year, little-known allrounder T.P. Sudhindra was handed a life ban after he was shown in a sting operation by India TV news channel as agreeing to bowl a no-ball at a predetermined time in a local T20 game in the central Indian city of Indore.
Police in New Delhi were also involved in investigations into the match-fixing allegations of the 1990s which implicated former South Africa test captain Hansie Cronje.
Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, fast bowler Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir had been found guilty of spot-fixing during a series in England in 2010 and served from three to seven months in prison.