Cracking the whip on corrupt players, the BCCI on Friday slapped life bans on Indian Test pacer S Sreesanth and spinner Ankeet Chavan for being involved in the IPL spot-fixing scam while handing out lesser punishments to some others in the scandal which rocked the Twenty20 league this year.
Amit Singh, a former Rajasthan Royals player, was handed a five-year ban while another RR cricketer Siddharth Trivedi got away with a lighter one-year suspension after the BCCI disciplinary committee met here to discuss anti-corruption chief Ravi Sawani's report on the scam.
"After considering the evidence on record and hearing each of the Players in person, the Disciplinary Committee has passed the following order...Mr Amit Singh is banned for a period of five years from playing any representative Cricket, or in any way being associated with the activities of the BCCI or its affiliates," BCCI Secretary Sanjay Patel said in a statement.
"Mr. Siddarth Trivedi is banned for a period of one year from playing any representative Cricket or in any way being associated with the activities of the BCCI or its affiliates.
"Mr. Ankeet Chavan is banned for life from playing any representative Cricket, or in any way being associated with the activities of the BCCI or its affiliates.
"Mr. S. Sreesanth is banned for life from playing any representative Cricket, or in any way being associated with the activities of the BCCI or its affiliates," the statement added.
Young spinner Harmeet Singh was, however, let off for lack of strong evidence against him. "The case against Mr. Harmeet Singh has been closed in the absence of evidence against him." The release had no mention of Ajit Chandila, who allegedly lured the cricketers into the spot-fixing net, but a BCCI official said a decision on him will be taken at a later stage.
Since Chandila has just been released on bail, the BCCI would like to give him an opportunity to depose in front of the committee before deciding the quantum of punishment.
The life bans on Sreesanth and Chavan were expected after Sawani had found them guilty of spot-fixing and had himself recommended a life ban. The scandal, which broke out in May, had shaken the cash-rich Twenty20 event and led to a massive churning within the Board.
"All the disciplinary committee members were very cooperative and it went off well. I gave them my side of the story. All I have dreamt from childhood is to play for India and I will never cheat the game," Sreesanth said on Friday after appearing before the committee.
"I have full faith in the judiciary as well as the BCCI and I will come clean on this whole issue," added the 30-year-old former Test pacer, who was clad in a white shirt and blue denim jeans and was accompanied by a friend, Manoj.
The five players' deposition came even as Sawani's report was discussed by the BCCI committee, headed by BCCI President N Srinivasan and comprising Board vice-Presidents Arun Jaitley and Niranjan Shah.
Sawani has held Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan guilty of conceding a "pre-determined number of runs per over in exchange for bribes."
Trivedi and 21-year-old Harmeet were cleared of the spot-fixing charges, but were found guilty of not reporting the approaches made by bookmakers.
Sawani has recommended bans ranging from five years to lifetime for the players, who even served jail time before being granted bails.
"The disciplinary committee may consider my report and impose such sanctions as considered appropriate to send out a strong signal indicating the zero tolerance policy of the BCCI to any corruption in the sport that is so dear to millions of Indians and fans abroad," Sawani has said in the report.
"Obviously, the anti-corruption education given to the players had no impact on the conduct. Therefore, the players deserve no leniency whatsoever," he asserted.
A fourth player who did not appear before the committee but was found guilty is Amit Singh.
Singh, part of the IPL till last year, was described by Sawani as "the bad fish that spoils the entire pond".
Friday's meeting also assumed significance because of the presence of Srinivasan, who stepped aside as BCCI President after his son-in-law and Chennai Super Kings Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested for alleged betting. Srinivasan's company India Cements owns CSK.
The day-to-day functioning of the BCCI is currently being handled by former Board President Jagmohan Dalmiya but Srinivasan has rarely missed an opportunity to make his presence felt.
By chairing Friday's meeting, he has once again tried to assert his position in the Board.
The spot-fixing scandal broke out when Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila were arrested on May 16, along with 11 bookies, and were charged under the Indian Penal Code section 420 and 120B, which deal with fraud, cheating and criminal conspiracy.
The scandal led to an overhauling of the guidelines for players and owners in the IPL. The BCCI drew up an action plan called 'Operation Clean-up' which envisaged a series of measures to curb corruption in the IPL.
Cheerleaders were barred along with the after-match parties for players and support staff. It was also decided to restrict the movement of owners in the players dug-out and dressing room.