NEW DELHI: A New Delhi court yesterday cleared Test fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and two other players of spotfixing during the Indian Premier League, a lawyer and media reports said. Indian prosecutors had filed charges of cheating and conspiracy against the players over their alleged links to an organised crime syndicate during the 2013 edition of the Twenty20 competition.
Two of Sreesanth’s teammates from the Rajasthan Royals franchise, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, had also been charged along with bookmakers and underworld figures. “The judge has passed the order and discharged all the players. There is no case against the players now,” a defence lawyer told reporters outside the court Saturday. “All are discharged (from the case),” the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted additional sessions judge Neena Bansal Krishna as saying while pronouncing the order.
The three players were arrested in May 2013 along with scores of bookies as part of a police investigation into the spot-fixing scandal that caused outrage among fans in the cricket-mad nation. The players were later granted bail due to lack of evidence. Gambling is mostly illegal in India, but betting on cricket matches thrives through underground networks of bookies. Spot-fixing, in which a specific part of a game but not the result is fixed, is also illegal. Sreesanth, who played 27 Tests for India, was alleged to have been paid tens of thousands of dollars after agreeing to deliberately bowl badly in an IPL match. Delhi police also said at the time of their arrest that his teammates agreed to similar deals in two other IPL matches.
The players welcomed the verdict Saturday, hugging family members and friends. “It’s a huge relief. I have nothing against anybody. God willing I will return to cricket,” Sreesanth told India’s NDTV network. Chandila said “a bad dream” had come to an end while Chavan said he was looking forward to being able to play again soon.
The glitzy Twenty20 league, which is broadcast around the world, is hugely popular in India, with a number of teams fronted by big Bollywood names. But it has been dogged by corruption allegations ever since its first edition in 2008. Earlier this month, a Supreme Courtappointed panel suspended two of the eight IPL teams after officials were found guilty of illegally betting on matches. International news organisations including Agence France-Presse have suspended on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since 2012 after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies.— AFP