No autographs during play: BCCI
From children to adults, no fan is immune to the thrill of getting an autograph from their favourite sportsperson. In fact, it’s a common sight to see fans beseeching cricketers fielding on the boundary for a quick autograph. Most players are happy to oblige, knowing that a scrawled signature can often be a souvenir that will be cherished for a lifetime.
However, this link between cricketers and fans is set to be severed, if the BCCI has its way. “We have asked cricketers not to give autographs while the match is on, during the IPL, Champions League T20 and all other BCCI-organised matches in India. This could be a method through which bookies may connect with cricketers. Through an autograph book, a bookie can exchange vital information about the match with a player. For example, he can be asked to score a particular number of runs while batting,” KS Madhavan, senior investigating officer of the BCCI’s Anti Coruption Unit, told TOI on Sunday, while ‘overseeing’ the Ranji Trophy final between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka at the Wankhede Stadium.
While it is difficult to obtain autographs in India due to the grounds being fenced off, in most other countries fans are able to do so, as is visible at the ongoing World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. “It is a dangerous exercise and we (anti-corruption officials of the BCCI and the ICC) are trying to push for a world-wide ban on this,” Madhavan said.
The retired Tamil Nadu SP, who has served in investigative agencies like NIA, SIT, CBI, ACB and the Anti-Corruption Bureau, reveals another interesting modus operandi used by the bookies these days. “They plant their ‘agents’ in the stadium during games to tell them about the score. Since the TV telecasts slightly delayed action, it helps them rig bets and make money. For example, if they come to know that a batsman is out, they would take immediate bets on whether a four or a six would be hit off the next ball. This ensures they make a killing. So, we have to keep a tab on spectators’ behavior. In case of suspicion, we evict that particular person, like what happened in New Zealand recently, when a few bookies were thrown out of a ground during a World Cup game. However, we have to observe that person for a while before doing this,” he said.
The 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal, which saw three players being banned for life, has made the BCCI alert about educating players at the domestic cricket stage itself. Since the past couple of seasons, Madhavan and his colleague Anshuman Upadhyaya have been travelling to most Ranji Trophy venues. “This season, I have travelled to 10 venues. I am supposed to stay in the same hotel where the teams have been put up, take the same bus to the ground, and stay around for the duration of the game, before submitting a report about it to my boss (Ravi Sawani, director, ACU of the BCCI). This (domestic cricket) is where the bookies can meet cricketers more easily. We educate the players about what they are supposed to do to avoid such people. I can gladly say that we have been successful in preventing such situations from occurring,” he said.
“Our integrity officers educate the players, support staff and state association officials about the protocols of an international match. For example, they don’t allow anyone without proper accreditation to enter the dressing room or the teams’ area,” said BCCI General Manager (game development) Ratnakar Shetty.
“During the IPL, I am supposed to know the entire guest list of a party. You cannot eradicate fixing in the game completely, but you can certainly take preventive steps,” stressed Madhavan.