Cracking the code of bookmakers won't be easy
Cricket, betting and match-fixing go hand in hand. With the World Cup round the corner, the menace could only grow bigger.
While there are rungs of security guarding the venues and players against possible terror strikes, dedicated teams have been put on the job to keep track of possible betting and match-fixing during the mega event, beginning February 19.
However, according to the police and Intelligence Bureau, cracking the code of bookies and match-fixers won't be easy, because the strategy adopted by them will be different.
According to police officials, there is a major change in the pattern in which these persons operate. Betting was prominent in obvious places where black marketing was rampant, but the operators have shifted base to resorts from where they run the racket.
The Intelligence Bureau believes that while betting remains a small problem, match-fixing is the bigger issue threatening the game.
A Pakistani bookmaker had recently revealed that a large part of the betting racket is controlled by the Dawood Ibrahim gang and all bookies involved in the match-fixing scandal are answerable to Dawood, who operates out of Karachi. This has been confirmed by the IB.
Police to monitor parties attended by cricketers
So what makes the job tough now for both the IB as well the police? Usually, betting incidents are tracked down based on the cell phone records of persons who have been involved, and this is how the police finally reach their man.
When preparations for the 2011 World Cup commenced, the police listed several persons who could be possibly involved in the racket, based on their history sheet. However, the police have so far found no movement from these people. This is an indication that they have been kept out of operation. It also means that newer persons have been roped into the racket and will now operate on behalf of Dawood's gang.
The police have revealed that the new recruits could be anybody, from chefs to cheergirls, waiters and room boys. Hence, police officials, as well as the IB, will be keeping a close eye on them during the World Cup.
A source in the IB revealed that while these persons may not be directly involved in the racket, they could act as middlemen. Bookies will find it very easy to approach a player through the cheer girls and room boys, who are paid anything between Rs 5 and Rs 7 lakh only to fix a meeting with the players.
Hence, police officials will closely monitor parties attended by cricketers.
Image: An old file picture of gangster Dawood Ibrahim
Pakistani cricketers will be closely watched
Sources say that with this changed strategy, the problem to check the illegal practices becomes bigger, as there is a need to constantly monitor these persons. It also poses an additional problem as the police will also have to keep an eye on the players, Pakistanis in particular, as they wouldn't want the World Cup to become an embarrassment due to match-fixing.
For the police and IB, the job ahead is huge. According to the IB, the network of bookies is a large one, with over 4000 persons likely to operate during the World Cup.
Also, with the bookies likely to operate from resorts and India's rural areas, it could get difficult to track the wrong-doers.
The onus will be on the anti-betting squad, which will work alongside the IB and the local police to keep a tab on the networks of these bookies.
ICC chief Haroon Lorgat had said that they would take all efforts to keep the World Cup clean and a zero toleration approach to corruption would be adopted during the event. Whether this is possible or not is largely dependent on the Indian police.
Image: Mohd Asif, Mohd Amir and Salman Butt