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TV sting alleges corruption among umpires

Mohammad Isam

October 8, 2012

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A sting operation by an Indian TV channel claims to have "exposed" several first-class umpires from three countries who were allegedly willing to give decisions favouring players for a fee. The sting was broadcast on Monday evening by India TV, which in May had alleged corrupt practices by five Indian domestic players, all of whom were subsequently banned by the BCCI for varying lengths.

Among the umpires named or allegedly interviewed in the sting, one is a current member of the ICC's international panel of umpires and two have officiated in international matches. One was a reserve umpire and the other a fourth official in unofficial warm-up matches before the 2012 World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. Two of the umpires are from Bangladesh.

In the sting, conducted in July and August, the reporters claimed to belong to a sports management company and promised the umpires officiating assignments in events of all kinds around the world, largely domestic Twenty20 leagues.

The reporters, who worked undercover, carried out the 'sting' mainly through interviews and conversations via Skype, an internet videophone service. The one face-to-face meeting, with the International Panel umpire, is said to have taken place in Delhi in July. At that meeting, the umpire was asked whether he would do favours for cricketers who were sponsored by the "company" the reporters represented. He replied saying it would be possible to do so with reference to lbws and run-outs only. The no-ball, he said, "has the problem of going to the third umpire, so says the law. It has to be done in a way that nobody knows."

One of the umpires involved in the sting was alleged to have provided pre-match information relating to a domestic Twenty20 match - the state of the pitch, the playing XIs and the result of the toss - and had allegedly been paid Rs 15,000 (US$285) for it. On the Skype video, he can be heard promising the same information for a World Twenty20 practice game, which included a pitch report 90 minutes before the start of the match, as well the result of the toss. The other is heard asking for Rs 50,000 (US$950) to provide information about the pitch conditions, toss and playing elevens before the second of the practice matches the day before the start of the World Twenty20.

In a statement, the ICC confirmed that none of the umpires named had been involved in any of the official games of the World Twenty20. It also asked the channel "to turn over any information that can assist the ICC's urgent investigations into this matter."

None of the umpires in the sting had been a part of the ICC's Elite panel of umpires, who are directly under the control of the ICC. Umpires on the international panel are under the jurisdiction and control of their home boards. Every national board can recommend their candidates for the international panel, but elevation to the international panel is not part of inevitable progress towards the elite panel. Not all international panel umpires are elevated to elite status.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board also issued a statement referring to "allegations of corruption... directed towards a Bangladeshi international panel umpire who is with the BCB on retainership basis." It pledged a "detailed inquiry" into the matter.

ESPNcricinfo was contacted in August this year by two of these umpires, who said they had the impression of being offered generous umpiring deals for an "upcoming" private tournament. The umpires said they were in discussions with the "sports management company" keeping the appointments in mind, with one of them saying he suspected the bonafides of the company. Both umpires claimed they had spoken to these "sports agents" on Skype; they said they had turned on their camera but the party on the other side, claiming to be from India, didn't turn on their webcams.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh

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