Pandemic ‘bio-bubble’ to make it harder for match-fixers to approach cricketers

The world’s richest Twenty20 league will start September 19 in the United Arab Emirates after being moved because of the coronavirus crisis. — AFP/Files

NEW DELHI: Indian cricket’s anti-corruption chief has said on Friday that shady match-fixers would find it harder to approach cricketers in the Indian Premier League (IPL)’s COVID-19 bubble,

The world’s richest Twenty20 league will start September 19 in the United Arab Emirates after being moved because of the coronavirus crisis.

Confining the eight teams to “bio-bubbles” will also help anti-corruption officials “keeping a watch on people”, Ajit Singh, chief of the anti-corruption unit at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) told AFP.

“Controlling interaction between players and others will not be very difficult.”

Cricket has become a key battleground in the fight against spot-fixing — illegal bets on a certain part of the action, such as how many runs are scored in an over.

Singh said he will assign two liaison officers to monitor each team during the 53-day tournament.

Players’ Twitter comments will also be watched for coded messages, he added.

The money-spinning IPL has been plagued by corruption and match-fixing controversy since it started in 2008.

Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan was suspended last year for failing to report corrupt approaches, one of them over the IPL.

A 2013 scandal caused the Chennai Super Kings, led by ex-India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Rajasthan Royals to be suspended in 2015 for two seasons.

The scandal saw Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, a Rajasthan Royals bowler, being banned for life along with team-mates Ankit Chavan and Ajit Chandila over the illegal spot-fixing and betting scandal.

The three were arrested in 2013 with scores of bookies as part of a probe into allegations that players had underperformed in return for cash. Sreesanth’s ban was revoked by India’s top court last year.

The T20 league is a huge revenue earner for the BCCI. Before the virus it was estimated to generate more than $11 billion for the Indian economy each year.

Teams have already started arriving in the UAE where players will be under a week’s isolation before they start training.

The games will only be played in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai while a normal season in India sees more than 10 venues used.

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