Spot-fixing row: BCCI's anti-corruption unit stumped by claims of Morris, Munawar

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Former first-class cricketer Robin Morris appears to be at the centre of the match-fixing allegations in T20 tournaments. A former first-class cricketer who played for Mumbai and Odisha, Morris has spoken about allegedly arranging T20 leagues solely for "fixing" purposes, in a sting documentary by Al Jazeera.

In the video, Morris is seen claiming he was involved in setting up T20 leagues in India, Dubai, Hong Kong, and other places.

The TV documentary claims that pitches were “doctored” during India's tour to Sri Lanka in 2017 and Australia's tour to the emerald island in 2016. Spot-fixing, reportedly, also happened during the third Test match between Australia and India in Ranchi in 2017 and India-England Test in Chennai in December 2016.

The BCCI's Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has not yet interviewed Morris. They are, reportedly, trying to gather information on Morris, who had switched over to the rebel Indian Cricket League, which subsequently folded up due to rampant corruption charges. Investigators, reportedly, have no clear indication that he had been “indoctrinated” by the match-fixing mafia after his stint in the ICL.

In fact, Morris was one of the several cricketers who had returned to the BCCI fold and was even a beneficiary of the board's pension scheme.

The ICC's anti-corruption unit as well as those of other countries like England, Australia and Sri Lanka have all stated they are looking into the claims. But the fact remains that neither ICC's ACU or the BCCI's ACU has the power to interrogate or question players accused in the documentary.

BCCI's ACU is helmed by former Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, who is known for his investigations into Dawood Ibrahim's activities. Kumar had also led the investigations in the IPL spot-fixing scandal in 2013.

Investigators also appear stumped by Aneel Munawar, the person identified as an Indian national who allegedly worked for the crime syndicate led by Dubai-based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and who is seen naming three English and two Australian cricketers in the documentary. His name has not come up in any spot-fixing scams in recent times nor does his name appear in the list of suspicious persons prepared by the ACUs of India or the ICC.

Also, with England and Australia cricket boards closing ranks and denying any involvement of their players, anti-corruption investigators are in a fix. ECB has already denied any involvement of its players in the fresh allegations, while Cricket Australia is demanding further proof.

In fact, investigators foresee matter being “papered over” by the boards. “Unless there is a strong law, how can match-fixers be ever caught in India and punished,” said an official.

To be able to do that, a case has to be registered first—either in the country or in the city where the documentary was shot. With the glaring absence of any law against sports frauds in India, any investigation only gets limited to fact collection or gentle inquiry. “Usually, if a player's name comes up in any controversy like this, they are told to cooperate with the ACU officials who are likely to get in touch with them, which most of them do. But, for a proper inquiry, a case needs to be registered and law-enforcing authorities are then brought into the picture,” said a senior ACU official.

The BCCI, in a statement released on Sunday, said its ACU is working closely with the ICC's ACU. The ICC, in a statement issued the same day, had declared that it had taken all allegations made in the documentary “very seriously” and a full investigation with member countries was underway. It, however, added that the broadcaster was not cooperating fully with it. “We have been in an ongoing dialogue with the broadcaster which has refused our continual requests to cooperate and share information which has hampered our investigation to date.”

With the absence of any law in India, Indian investigators are, reportedly, restricted to just passing requested information on people involved in the matter. A draft of sporting frauds bill was submitted to the Union law ministry in 2015 in the wake of the IPL spot-fixing scandal in 2013. Justice Mukul Mudgal was assigned the task of drafting the bill. However, the Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill (2013) has been shelved by the BJP-led NDA government.