Five uncapped Indian players were today suspended with immediate effect pending completion of an inquiry as a rattled BCCI cracked the whip on tainted cricketers in the wake of a television sting operation which claimed to have exposed corruption in the cash-rich IPL.
The strong action to suspend Pune Warriors' Mohnish Mishra, Kings XI Punjab's Shalabh Srivastava and Amit Yadav, Deccan Chargers' T P Sudhindra and Abhinav Bali was taken after a lengthy tele-conference of top BCCI officials and members of the IPL's Governing Council.
The BCCI decided to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident by Ravi Sawani, the former chief of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit who is now heading the BCCI's newly set-up Anti-Corruption Unit.
"The IPL Governing Council met on teleconference today at 2:30pm and they recommended to the BCCI President for strict action against those players who were found guilty and found suspicious on the television footage shown on India TV," IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla told reporters here.
"Since it also involved matter relating to other matches and previous IPL, it was referred to the President. The president after due consideration has decided to have a preliminary inquiry for which a commissioner has been appointed. Mr Ravi Sawani who was the ICC ACSU chief and now advisor will conduct the inquiry and he will submit a report to the Disciplinary Committee," he said.
"Pending inquiry the five players have been suspended from all cricket activities with immediate effect. We will await the report of the preliminary inquiry and proper action will be taken only after that," he added.
Earlier, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla had said strict action would be taken if any player is found to be involved in spot-fixing.
Top BCCI officials have already started discussing the issue among themselves amid indications that stern action could be taken against a few players who are shown in the tv sting operation.
"The IPL Governing Council will discuss the issue. We have asked for the tapes. We will study the tapes and then take a decision", a top BCCI source said.
A TV channel had yesterday claimed to have blown the lid off "murky deals" in the IPL among players, organisers, owners and big guns of Indian cricket, prompting the BCCI to warn that stringent action will be taken if the report is found to be true.
The Hindi news channel claimed it had done a sting operation in which many players confessed on hidden camera they get much more than their prescribed auction under the table.
According to the channel, its operation also revealed that spot-fixing is not only prevalent in IPL but also that first class matches are fixed and women played an important role in match-fixing.
The channel had claimed it had done a sting operation in which many players confessed on hidden camera they get much more than their prescribed auction under the table. According to the channel, its operation also revealed that spot-fixing is not only prevalent in IPL but also that first class matches are fixed and women played an important role in match-fixing.
The IPL's Governing Council had sought video footage from the TV channel and is understood to have scrutinised the tapes before taking the decision of suspending the players.
That some tough measures would be taken against the players was evident when the BCCI president N Srinivasan, who is currently at Kodaikanal, made it clear that no player would be spared if found guilty.
He said he was surprised by the sting operation and reiterated the BCCI's zero tolerance towards corruption in cricket. "We will not tolerate this nonsense. We have zero tolerance on corruption and you will not be disappointed by the action we take," he said, adding some evidence has been found against some players.
Hindi-language India TV showed Sudhindra, of the Deccan Chargers, allegedly agreeing to bowl pre-arranged no-balls in a domestic match, while Kings XI Punjab player Srivastava was reportedly heard boasting he could do the same in the IPL.
The channel claimed it had taped seamer Srivastava telling its reporters he could deliver a no-ball in the IPL for Rs 10 lakh (about $18,500).
Srivastava, 30, who has played two seasons of first-class cricket for the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, denied the allegation and threatened to take the TV channel to court.
"The voice which suggests that I am ready to spot-fix is not mine," he told the Indian Express newspaper. "I am ready to clarify this to the BCCI, my team owners and the IPL governing council.
"I will definitely file a case against them."
Srivastava claimed that he was innocent and would put forward his side of story before the inquiry commissioner. "I deny the charges but don't want to say anything more as of now. I will put forward my views before the inquiry commissioner. I will wait for that. I respect the BCCI," he said.
Another Kings XI Punjab player, Yadav, was taped saying he had reason to believe that last season's IPL match against Delhi Daredevils was fixed, but could not substantiate his claim.
The Editor-in-Chief and Chairman of India TV, Rajat Sharma stood by the story and said they had offered money to over a dozen cricketers after which they had aired the clips of cricketers, who had offered to take money to either switch teams or for spot fixing in matches.
He denied that any of the big players had sought money from the channel's reporters who had posed as agents. "As far as I know the big players in IPL are clean. This is possible since they have already made enough money. To me it's not a system failure but seems some individual players are corrupt," he said. While conducting the sting operation, Sharma said they had come across three cricketers who had refused to take money from the reporters. The BCCI later issued a release, expressing concern at the incident.
"An emergent meeting of the IPL Governing Council took place on teleconference today. The Governing Council discussed the video footage shown on India TV since last evening of a 'Sting' operation in connection with the IPL," the release said. "The members felt that the areas covered by the footage warranted immediate action by the President BCCI under the 'Memorandum and Rules and Regulations' of the BCCI against the players alleged to be involved," it said.