How a fake Indian Premier League fooled Russian punters

Blowing the horn—sorry, whistle.
Blowing the horn—sorry, whistle.
Image: IPL Reuters/Stringer/File Photo
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Three weeks after the Indian Premier League (IPL), an annual cricketing carnival of sorts, ended this year, a fraudulent version began in a small village in Mehsana in the country’s western state of Gujarat.

Nearly two dozen farmers and other unemployed youth in Molipur donned the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Mumbai Indians (MI), Gujarat Titans (GT), and other IPL teams’ jerseys, and took turns playing, according to a report in The Times of India.

Some pretended to be umpires, and there was even someone mimicking the popular commentator Harsha Bhogle. The matches were filmed on 5 HD cameras and streamed live on YouTube, complete with fake sound effects of ambient audience cheers.

This whole performance was, reportedly, bait for bookies located more than 5,000 kilometres away—in Russia.

Bets came in from Moscow, Voronezh, and Tver, via a Telegram channel that the scammers had set up. They amounted to upwards of Rs3 lakhs ($3,778), coming in through the angadias, a network of couriers who have formed an age-old parallel money-transfer system in India. This network is traditionally used by Indian traders to send cash from one state to another.

The jig was up at the pretend quarterfinal stage when the police cracked down and arrested four persons involved with it.

The real IPL is no less of a money machine

Even the real deal—the actual IPL tournament—is a hotbed of bettors. Gambling with the outcomes during the massive sporting event, whose streaming rights were sold for upwards of Rs48,000 crores this year and in which several teams are worth more than $1 billion each, can be highly lucrative. Betting online on cricket is even legal in some cases. Yet, much of it remains below the radar.

Funnily enough, this isn’t the first fake cricket tournament organised to dupe people. In 2020, a probe unearthed the Sri Lanka Uva T20 League IPL,” which was actually an elaborate sham set up in Mohali, Punjab.