Big catch: IPL regular arrested for match-fixing

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Television grab from the final moments of 2019 KPL final, the game for which CM Gautam allegedly got Rs 20 lakh to bat slowly.

A one-time India fringe player who has played for Indian Premier League teams like Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians has been arrested on match-fixing charges. A former Karnataka Ranji Trophy regular, CM Gautam, 33, was named as an accused by the Central Crime Branch unit of the Bengaluru Police that is probing the match-fixing scandal in the Karnataka Premier League.

Also in the dock on the same charges was Gautam's 29-year-old Ballari Tuskers teammate Abrar Kazi. Already in the police net are four other players, two coaches and an entertainer - all involved in the dubious league.

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Produced before a magistrate on Thursday, Gautam and Kazi were remanded to seven days of police custody. The police said the two were held on the basis of information provided by another KPL player Nishant Shekhawat, who was arrested two days ago. Shekhawat, who has played for multiple teams in the KPL, has been accused of helping bookies get in touch with players and coaching staff with the intention of fixing games.

The police have accused Gautam, Kazi and other players who are yet to be identified - of “conspiring with team owners and bookies” to fix at least four games, including this year's KPL final, over the last two seasons. In most cases, they have been alleged to have intentionally batted slowly. “They spot-fixed the KPL 2019 final between Hubli Tigers and Ballari Tuskers. They were paid 20 lakh for slow batting,” police said regarding the arrests of Gautam and Kazi. The Ballari Tuskers team was bought in 2017 by real estate businessman Arvind Venkatesh Reddy. He roped in Kannada film actress Ragini Dwivedi as co-owner. The police have questioned him over multiple sessions regarding involvement in spot-fixing.

Earlier, a member of the Tuskers team for the 2019 season, Bhavesh Gulecha, told police that he was approached on behalf of bookies by Bhavesh Bafna, 26, a celebrity drummer, to underperform during a KPL match. Gulecha has given a statement to the police saying he was asked by Bafna to concede more than 10 runs an over in a match in the 2019 edition.

The arrests of Shekhawat, Gautam and Kazi by the CCB police follows the arrest of the bowling coach of the Bengaluru Blasters Vinu Prasad and a batsman for the same team in the 2018 season, M Vishwanathan, on charges of cheating and conspiracy through slow batting in a KPL tie - for which Vishwanathan allegedly got Rs five lakh. Shekhawat “was in touch with bookies and contacted Vinu Prasad to fix players,” the police said. He is accused of helping Prasad lure Vishwanathan into the fixing net on behalf of a Chandigarh bookie identified as Manoj Kumar alias Monty. Prasad was allegedly introduced to Monty by Shekhawat, a player for the Shivamogga Lions at the time, police said in an initial report on the probe which led to the arrests of Vishwanathan and Prasad in Bengaluru last week.

Bengaluru crime branch had in September arrested the owner of the Belagavi Panthers team Ali Asfak Thara, Bafna, the celebrity drummer in the KPL and other tournaments like the IPL and TNPL, and named two Delhi bookies Sanyam Gulati and Jatin Sethi for involvement in the betting racket. None of the bookies named in the four separate cases filed have been arrested as yet. “Further investigations are on and more arrests will be made,” crime branch chief Sandeep Patil said on Thursday.