Fake IPL, Live Streaming, Harsha Bhogle Mimic: How Gujarat Labourers Duped Russian Bookies

New Delhi: A group of farm labourers of Gujarat’s Mehsana almost pulled off a sensational scam over Russian punters after enacting Indian Premier League (IPL) players and luring the punters for placing bets. On Monday, police busted the gang conducting the fake T20 cricket tournament and arrested four people, PTI reported.

Davda, in order to create an impression of an IPL rip off, prepared a cricket ground on a rented agricultural field and hired around 20 farm labourers and local youth to play the game wearing jerseys of teams like Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans.

A Mehsana Special Operations Group (SOG) team, upon receiving a tip-off about a cricket betting racket involving Russians, raided a cricket ground on the outskirts of Molipur village on July 7.

The police seized cricket kits, flood lights, power generator and video cameras used for live streaming the matches, LED TVs, a laptop and some walkie-talkie sets. All the items seized were worth Rs 3.21 lakh, PTI reported.

The organisers were accepting money from punters in three Russian cities of Tver, Voronezh and Moscow. The matches were live streamed on YouTube. The organisers also added recorded crowd noise to give the stream a touch of realism. The bets were accepted on Telegram channel and an unnamed guy from Meerut was roped in to enact popular commentator Harsha Bhogle.

Upon investigation, police found that the mastermind of organising the IPL-like tournament and taking bets from Russia-based bookies was Shoeb Davda.

“During his stay in Russia, he learnt about cricket betting from one Asif Mohammad who advised him to organise such fake tournaments. Shoeb first took an agricultural field on rent and turned it into a cricket ground,” PTI quoted an official as saying.

“To make it look authentic, the gang installed flood lights and video cameras on the ground for better live coverage and registered the tournament as ‘Century Hitters 20-20’ on CRICHEROES mobile app and started the live telecast two weeks ago,” the official further said.

Bhavesh Rathod, SOG PI, Mehsana, said Shoeb Davda hired the farm of Ghulam Masih and installed halogen lights there. He readied 21 farm labourers, promising them Rs 400 per match. Next, he hired cameramen and bought T-shirts of IPL teams. 

The fake teams in the tournament were given names like Chennai Fighters, Gandhinagar Challengers and Palanpur Sports Kings.

“While live streaming the matches on their YouTube channel, Asif, sitting in Russia, took bets from bookies. He is still in Russia and is wanted in the case,” Rathod said.

“Shoeb would take bets. He would instruct Kolu, the umpire, to signal fours and sixes. Kolu would alert the batsman and the bowler. Next, the bowler would deliver a slow ball, enabling the batsman to hit it for a four or a six. The cameramen would pan the cameras towards the sky to show that the ball was nowhere in sight. Next, they would zoom into the umpire who would signal a six. The cameramen ensured there were no zoom-outs lest the farm became visible,” Rathod further said.