A gang set up a fake “Indian Premier League” tournament with farm labourers acting as players to dupe Russian punters in a betting scam reminiscent of the 1973 film The Sting.
The so-called “Indian Premier Cricket League” reached the quarter-final stage before the racket was busted by police in India.
The tournament began three weeks after the actual IPL concluded in May, according to police, but that proved no hindrance to the gang, which they said leased a remote farm in the western state of Gujarat.
They installed a cricket pitch, complete with “boundary lines and halogen lamps”, Insp Bhavesh Rathod told reporters. “Besides this the accused had set up high-resolution cameras on the ground and used computer generated graphics to display scores on a live streaming screen.”
The gang allegedly hired labourers and unemployed young people, paying them 400 rupees (£4.20) a game, and broadcast the matches live on a YouTube channel called “IPL”.
Players took turns to wear jerseys of the Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Titans, police said, acting on the instructions of the “Russia-based mastermind”.
Crowd-noise sound effects were downloaded from the internet and a speaker with a knack for mimicking one of IPL’s real Indian commentators was used to make the tournament appear authentic.
At the same time the camera operator made sure the entire ground was not shown, beaming close-ups of the players instead.
Russian punters were lured into betting their roubles on a Telegram channel set up by the gang, who would then alert the fake umpire on the pitch using walkie-talkies.
The supposed official “would signal the bowler and batsman to hit a six, four or get out”, Rathod said.
A “quarter-final” match was being played “when we got a tip-off and we busted the racket”, said the police officer added.
The accused had received a first instalment of more than 300,000 rupees from the punters in Russia, Rathod said.
The scheme has echoes of The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in which a group of con artists set up a fake betting operation in order to defraud a gangster.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.