New Delhi, May 16 (Agencies): Indian speedster S Sreesanth and two of his Rajasthan Royals teammates have been arrested on charges of spot-fixing, throwing the cash-rich Indian Premier League into its biggest crisis till date.
A special cell of the Delhi police arrested Sreesanth and teammates Ajit Chadila and Ankeet Chavan in Mumbai on Wednesday night after their team's IPL match against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede stadium.
The cricketers and bookies have been charged under sections 420 (cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and are being flown in to Delhi for further questioning.
Spot-fixing is the manipulation of individual incidents within a match which may not affect the outcome of the contest.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India said it has suspended all three pending an inquiry.
Investigators said besides telephone records, they also have evidence of messages passed through BlackBerry Messenger and Whatsapp.
The Delhi police source said that these players were under the scanner for their role in spot fixing in some of the earlier IPL matches, although they did not elaborate which matches were under scrutiny.
The police have also arrested seven bookies in Mumbai and three bookies in Delhi in connection with the same case. They are looking for two more bookies in Delhi.
Union Minister of State Shashi Tharoor said he was sad over the arrest of Sreesanth but cautioned that “none should rush to conclusions until the charges against him are proved”.
“I am sad over the arrest. He is a good cricketer and pride of Kerala,” Tharoor, minister of state for human resources development, told reporters when his comments were sought on the development.
“We cannot say he has committed any wrong until the court processes are over. He will remain innocent until proven guilty,” said Tharoor, an ardent cricket fan who represents Kerala’s capital in Parliament.
Rajasthan Royals said it is shocked by the development.
“We have been informed that three of our players have been called in for investigation on spot fixing in matches. We are completely taken by surprise. We do not have the full facts at this point and are unable to confirm anything.”
“We are in touch with the BCCI on this matter. We will fully cooperate with the authorities to ensure a thorough investigation. The management at Rajasthan Royals has a zero-tolerance approach to anything that is against the spirit of the game,” the statement said.
Reacting to the developments, Rajasthan Royal owner Raj Kundra tweeted, “When asked the repeated question is IPL fixed my answer is always IPL teams CAN'T be fixed but individual players who lack integrity can.”
“Just when IPL was going on so smoothly without controversies I woke up to the news of 3 RR players alleged spot fixing. Investigations are on,” he said.
Ever since the league began in 2008, almost all the seasons have been marred by controversies.
Last year, five players were suspended on spot fixing charges. And it's not the first time that Sreesanth is at the centre of a controversy in the IPL. The temperamental paceman was involved in the infamous 'slapgate' in 2008.
He was reportedly slapped by India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and TV cameras caught Sreesanth crying. However, recently Sreesanth claimed that he was never slapped but elbowed by the 'turbanator'.
In the 2012 season, Australia's Luke Pomersbach was arrested for allegedly misbehaving with a woman, a US citizen of Indian origin, at the Maurya Sheraton Hotel.
Then Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, who is co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, was involved in an altercation with security officials at the Wankhede stadium and was banned from entering the stadium for five years.
In 2011, the BCCI terminated the Kochi Tuskers Kerala franchise for breaching its terms of agreement.