The BCCI's anti-corruption unit (ACU) is conducting an inquiry into alleged approaches made to several players by suspicious people in the latest edition of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), a T20 competition conducted by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA). The ACU launched an inquiry after the players reported the alleged approaches during the tournament.
According to Ajit Singh, head of the ACU, the approaches were reported by the players promptly during the fourth season of the league, played between July 19 and August 15 between eight teams. "It is an inquiry into who has made an approach," Singh told ESPNcricinfo. "The players have told us we have received these messages, so it is not an inquiry against the player."
It is understood that seven to eight players had reported approaches to the ACU.
When asked, Singh said he could not confirm or deny whether any of the players are, or have been, Indian internationals. Saying he did not have an exact number of players who had reported approaches, Singh did confirm that there were at least a handful. "There were messages who is going to bat first in the match, basically seeking (match related) information. We presume it's coming from those who are interested in betting," he elaborated.
Singh, a former Director General of Police in Rajasthan, also said that the ACU had received no information against any of the eight team owners, and the teams are not part of the inquiry as of now. As things stand, the ACU is trying to establish the source of the messages the players had received, which involves tracking telephone numbers.
That information can only be accessed by the police, but under the Indian Penal Code, match fixing is not yet a legal offence. Hence, Singh said, there was no deadline as such, but the ACU will look at all possible angles before wrapping up the inquiry.
Incidentally, this was the first time that the ACU provided cover for TNPL, having supervised the anti-corruption measures last year. In the first three seasons, the TNPL had on board Ravi Sawani, former ICC ACU general manager and BCCI ACU head, to look after the anti-corruption cell. This season, the TNPL had four ACU officers available throughout the tournament, with a few more investigators providing them support.
Singh explained that the ACU conducts a mandatory education programme before any tournament and this was followed at the TNPL this time. Players are expected to report any approach made within 24 hours to the ACU, and Singh said that the education programme had helped make players aware of the way corrupt elements seek match-related information, and how they use it. Also, the programmes have helped develop a rapport between players and ACU officers, who they can contact directly if required.
Later in the evening, the TNCA sent out a press release, stating that the TNPL has a "zero tolerance policy" towards corruption. The release also said that the TNCA has appointed a committee to look into the allegations.
"Having received information of acts that would constitute, if accurate, offences under the regulatory framework of the TNPL, the TNCA had appointed a committee to enquire into the issue and submit a report and until the Committee has been afforded an opportunity to thoroughly examine the allegations and submit their report, the TNCA is unable to make any statements on the specifics of the allegations concerning teams, players or officials."
The TNPL was launched in 2016 by TNCA, the home base of former BCCI president and ICC chairman N Srinivasan. The tournament has been promoted by various high-profile present and former cricketers acting as brand ambassadors: MS Dhoni, Shane Watson, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, and Ambati Rayudu. The best cricketers from the region have also always been a part of the mix. This year, for example, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Vijay Shankar, M Vijay, Washington Sundar and Abhinav Mukund were all part of the action. Also, the TNPL has been telecast by Star India, the biggest broadcaster in cricket, which owns rights for ICC global tournaments as well Indian cricket rights and the IPL.
12.52pm GMT: The news story was updated after the TNCA sent a press release