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Dhaka Tribune

20 county stars questioned over BPL fixing

Update : 31 May 2013, 06:25 PM

More than 20 county cricketers and two English umpires are being interviewed by anti-corruption detectives as part of the International Cricket Council’s biggest match-fixing investigation. Chris Watts, the head of the ECB’s own anti-corruption unit, is helping the ICC in a joint initiative acting on tip-offs about corruption in the BPL. “The ACU have been in touch with us and I told them about a couple of things I suspected,” said one county player who played in the BPL but wanted to remain anonymous. “The ACU were out in force at the BPL and the access to dressing rooms got stricter and stricter as it went on. They did all they can but there were stories of bookies contacting players.” The anti-corruption team were present throughout the BPL in February and early suspicions fell on two matches involving eventual winners Dhaka Gladiators with unusual betting patterns surrounding a run-out in a match against Chittagong Kings and slow scoring in another match against Barisal Burners. The Telegraph understands that the ICC investigation has now widened to include other matches and the inquiry is at a “late stage”. An ICC spokesman confirmed it was investigating the BPL but declined to comment on the likely outcome. “As the investigations are ongoing and to ensure the process is not jeopardised, we cannot share any further details at this stage,” he said. The ICC set up its anti-corruption unit a decade ago in the wake of the Hansie Cronje affair. But it has managed only two successful convictions. Marlon Samuels was banned for two years for contact with bookies and Kenyan Maurice Odumbe for dealing with illegal bookmakers. Other high profile cases have embarrassed the ACU. The Pakistan spot-fixing case came to light through a newspaper investigation and the Essex scandal involving Danish Kaneria and Mervyn Westfield was the result of whistleblowing by their then team-mate Tony Palladino. This investigation, however, is different. Detectives have been speaking to players all over the world about a sophisticated spot-fixing ring that may involve team officials as well as players. Concerns about the lack of a clear anti-corruption policy led to the Professional Cricketers’ Association warning players not to play in the BPL when it was launched last year. Angus Porter, the PCA chief executive, declined to comment on the latest developments in the BPL. During the first BPL last year a Pakistani bookmaker was found attending a match and questioned by anti-corruption officers. The bookmaker was alleged to have the bank account details and email addresses of two Pakistan international players, Rana Naved and Nasir Jamshed, both of whom denied involvement with him. The latest investigation again raises concerns about the vulnerability of Twenty 20 cricket and coincides with a high profile police investigation in India centring on the IPL. In 2011 Lord Condon, the founder of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, specifically warned of the dangers posed by T20. “Probably the greatest trigger point [in the rise of corruption] was the explosion of T20,” he said. “The ‘anything goes’ party atmosphere allowed some really bad people back into the game. Some of the notorious fixers from early years started to re-emerge in India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia and the UK. “It almost legitimised the bad guys being back around cricket again, and fixers were even seen in promoters’ boxes and at matches. What had been pretty tight and regulated suddenly became a free-for-all.” The Bangladesh Cricket Board does not have the finances to fund its own inquiry, prompting the ICC to investigate this case. Anyone found guilty risks a lifetime ban from the game.

The players

Dhaka Gladiators: Josh Cobb (Leicestershire), Owais Shah (Essex), Darren Stevens (Kent), Chris Liddle (Sussex), Luke Wright (Sussex), Alfonso Thomas (Somerset).

Khulna Royal Bengals: Riki Wessels (Nottinghamshire)

Barisal Burners: Phil Mustard (Durham), Kabir Ali (Lancs), Joe Denly (Middlesex), Azhar Mahmood (Surrey).

Sylhet Royals: Paul Stirling (Midd’x), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (Derbyshire).

Chittagong Kings: Jason Roy (Surrey), Ravi Bopara, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shaun Tait (all Essex).

Duronto Rajshahi: Moeen Ali (Worcs), Sean Ervine (Hampshire), Simon Katich (Lancashire).

Rangpur Riders: Niall O’Brien (Leicestershire), Dimitri Mascarenhas (Hampshire).

Latest Developments

The ICC is speaking to players involved in the Bangladesh Premier League earlier this year which featured an array of cricketers from around the world including a number of county professionals.

Ravi Bopara, Owais Shah, Kabir Ali, Phil Mustard and Dimitri Mascarenhas are among the players who have been or will be interviewed by the England and Wales Cricket Board’s anti-corruption unit, which is working in conjunction with the ICC.

Two English umpires, Jeremy Lloyds and Richard Illingworth, who officiated in the BPL, have also been interviewed by the ECB’s anti-corruption unit.

It is understood that none of the English players or umpires are accused of involvement in match fixing but they have been interviewed as part of the intelligence-gathering process.

The Daily Telegraph has also been told that Ian Pont, the former Essex fast bowler who was head coach of the Dhaka Gladiators, has cooperated with the ICC investigation and has been cleared of involvement in match fixing.

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