The Karnataka cricket circuit was in a state of shock on hearing the news about the state’s Ranji Trophy mainstay, CM Gautam, being picked up by the police on charges of match-fixing.
Those who had shared the dressing room with the wicket-keeper batsmen were tight-lipped about the involvement of their team mate with dubious bookies but they did expressed surprise over the spate of arrests in the Karnataka Premier League match-fixing scandal.
“I don’t know about Gautam’s case but questions must be asked why there are so many players’ names are coming out. It’s easy to say that it was just the greed of the players but we definitely feel higher-ups are also involved. Then the players feel that the corruption seems to be so rampant, and they go with it,” says another player. Some owners and coaches have already come under the police scanner.
Gautam is easily the biggest name to have emerged in the police investigations into KPL. His breakthrough season was 2012-13 when he made 943 runs at an average of 118 with couple of double hundreds.
He had hoped that he would come into national reckoning that year but it didn’t turn out that way. In 2016 he spoke about the disappointment. “Obviously, it was very disappointing. The way I was getting runs that year, no keeper has got that much runs in domestic cricket so far. I was picked in the India A to play Australia in Chennai. I got runs there as well, After that, I played a few more India A matches and never got a call after that. I thought I was ready at that point in time am ready now as well and it was disappointing,” he had told sportskeeda.
“I thought I could have made my debut in 2013 or 14. I was really confident with my batting at that time.”
He continued to do well for Karnataka in Ranji Trophy and was selected for three IPL teams – Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils, and Mumbai Indians. One of his cherished off-the-field memories from IPL came with Delhi team, “partying with Vivian Richards, an unforgettable experience”.
However, things went downhill couple of years back. After an average season, he was dropped in the 2018 Ranji Trophy and he decided to shift to playing for Goa next year. His twitter feed suggests how disappointed he was by the turn of events in Karnataka cricket. It’s filled with retweets of his fans suggesting how they miss him or how injustice his non-selection was.
As news broke about police accusing Gautam and skeletons keep tumbling out of KPL, the Karnataka cricketers aren’t surprised. One of them said that doubts were expressed by dubious behind-the-scenes happenings in KPL. “Couple of years ago, a senior player in fact was so disturbed that he nearly decided to walk out,” says a cricketer.
Last year, another player, a captain, even chose to announce his final playing eleven after taking the field, in the team huddle. He was suspicious of some of his team-mates and thought this was better way to tackle it.
A player talks about how his suspicions about the league cropped up when he saw “fans” from as far away as Haryana come to Hubli, in Karnataka, to watch the KPL matches. “I was thinking we aren’t that big, why would they come from so far? Definitely fishy, illegal betting and what not…”