Cricket chiefs voiced “grave concern” but said there was no evidence the third Ashes Test between Australia and England starting on Thursday has been corrupted after a match-fixing bombshell rocked the series.
British newspaper The Sun alleged two bookmakers, including an Indian “Mr Big”, had offered to sell it details of rigged periods of play in the Test in Perth which could be bet on to win huge sums.
One of them claimed to have worked on the scam with former and current internationals including a World Cup- winning all-rounder. They said they liaised with a fixer in Australian cricket known as “The Silent Man”.
No Australia or England players were named as being involved.
The tabloid said their undercover reporters were asked for up to Pound 140,000 (USD 187,000, 158,000 euros) to “spot fix” markets such as the exact amount of runs scored in an over.
“Before match. I will tell you this over, this runs and then you have to put all the bets on that over,” one of the bookmakers was quoted as saying.
Asked if it was a good source, he said: “Absolutely correct information.”
The International Cricket Council said the revelations were of “grave concern” and an investigation had been launched, but it did not believe the match, where England are battling to avoid going 3-0 down in the five-Test series, had been tainted.
“From my initial assessment of the material, there is no evidence, either from The Sun or via our own intelligence, to suggest the current Test match has been corrupted,” said the ICC’s anti-corruption chief Alex Marshall.
“At this stage of the investigation, there is no indication that any players in this Test have been in contact with the alleged fixers.”
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland said the allegations were serious, but he was confident, based on the dossier handed to the ICC, there was no reason “to suspect that this Test match or indeed the Ashes series as a whole is subject to corrupt activities”.
He added that all players were educated on a regular basis about the risks of corruption.
The England Cricket Board pledged to work closely with the ICC, while also insisting “there is no suggestion that any of the England team is involved in any way”.
The Indian pair — secretly filmed at hotels in Dubai and Delhi during the paper’s four-month investigation — claimed corrupt players would signal the fix was on by making a subtle gesture on the field, such as changing their gloves.
Spotters in the crowd then tell bookies who put millions of bets into the illegal Indian betting market.
The Indian fixers claimed they could get players to follow “scripts” — such how many runs would be scored in a session, or an innings, when a wicket would fall and what a team would do if it won the toss, The Sun said.
“I will give you work in Ashes Test. Session runs. Maybe day one, two, three. We have two session work, one session costs 60 lakh rupees (Pound 69,000), two sessions 120 lakh rupees (Pound 138,000),” it cited one of the men as saying.
“If you are interested (we) will talk to the Silent Man.”
The Sun said the men also bragged to their reporters, who posed as financiers for underworld London bookies, that they could corrupt games in lucrative Twenty20 leagues such as Australia’s Big Bash and the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Cricket has been dogged by corruption cases in recent years.
In February, two Pakistan players — Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif — were caught in a spot-fixing scandal which rocked their Twenty20 league held in United Arab Emirates.
They were both banned for five years.
More recently, a probe was launched by the ICC into pitch tampering claims against a ground official ahead of the second one-day international between India and New Zealand in Pune in October.