Match-fixing, pay issues rock Nepal T20 LeagueFirst-ever official franchise tournament of CAN faces crisis after claims of match-fixing and non-payment to players.
The controversy-hit Nepal T20 League, the country’s first ever official franchise cricket tournament organised by Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), has been rocked by a scandal with former national cricket captain Gyanendra Malla on Tuesday revealing that one of his teammates was approached with a match-fixing plan.
“I cannot say about other teams, but a member of our team got such a proposal,” said Malla, who is also the captain of Kathmandu Knights.
“We have already reported it to the [International Cricket Council’s] Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU). But getting a proposal and accepting it are two different things. It is not necessary that everyone will accept a match-fixing proposal… We have reported it to the ACU and are monitoring it,” added Malla at a post-match conference on Tuesday, after his side edged past Biratnagar Super Kings by 34 runs.
Malla, however, did not reveal the identity of the player who got the match-fixing proposal, the fixer’s name or the game for which the proposal had been made.
Not only Malla, an ACU source at the International Cricket Council (ICC) also said that seven or eight Nepal players have reported to them about match-fixing offers. “Some Nepali players have reported to us. We have even collected some evidence of fixing by foreign players and officials and have already sent them to the ICC,” the ICC source said on the condition of anonymity.
The tournament was dragged into controversy even before it kicked off after the cricket governing body, CAN, leased the annual event for eight years to an Indian sports management company. The lease was made to Seven3Sports, as ‘commercial and strategic partner’, for Rs330 million, without any open bidding.
Besides Malla, one of the tournament’s official commentators, Sachin Timalsena, on Tuesday morning revealed through his Facebook post that he had found suspicious activities going on while working as a commentator and watching the games closely. He also said that he was quitting cricket commentary.
“Nepal T20 is a Nepali version of IPL [Indian Premier League] and I have been associated with it for the past 10 days,” Timalsena said in a video uploaded on the social network. “I saw many surprising and unnatural incidents on the pitch and cricket being used for wrong motives. I saw some low-profile overseas players being assigned as captains instead of the big guns. Also, the incident of dropping in-form players like Sikandar Raza, who has been performing well, and bringing in a non-bowler to deliberately give away runs, were some strange things. Seeing such unnatural incidents, I also reported them to ACU officer Bir Singh.”
Timalsena further charged that Nepal T20 was now into the hands of corrupt people and fixers and it would hamper Nepali cricket. “As a commentator, I have watched every ball carefully and I want the Nepali cricket to be clean and corruption free,” he said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has also written to Nepal Police Headquarters to start an inquiry into the fixing scandal, according to DIG and spokesperson of Nepal Police Tek Prasad Rai. “The ministry has written to the headquarters and we are already investigating,” Rai said. “The Central Investigation Bureau has a specialised team to look into incidents like match fixing and spot fixing. They are monitoring the tournament closely.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning, the match between Kathmandu Knights and Biratnagar Super Kings was delayed by two hours after the players refused to go to toss, citing non-payments, in what was a clear violation of their contracts.
As per the contract, the players should be given 40 percent of the contract amount before the tournament and the remaining 60 percent during the tournament. But only Pokhara Avengers and Lumbini All Stars players have got 50 percent of their payments among the six teams, while none of the players of the remaining four teams has been paid.
The game resumed two hours after the scheduled time, with nine over per side to be played after CAN officials—including secretary Prashant Bikram Malla, who is also the president of T20 Governing Council, and CAN general manager Britant Khanal— assured the players that they would be fully paid by Wednesday.
CAN officials, including president Chatur Bahadur Chand and secretary Malla, could not be reached for comments on Tuesday evening despite many attempts.
As per the regulations, all the players need to be paid by Seven3Sports via one-door system after franchises pay them the fees. But Seven3Sports managing director Jatin Ahluwalia has not been in contact with CAN officials or any of the Nepali stakeholders since Monday.
“We had payment issues for both domestic and overseas players. When we asked for payments with Seven3Sports representatives, they told us to ask for it with CAN,” said national captain Rohit Paudel, also a member of Biratnagar Super Kings. “The country’s cricket governing body has assured that they would release all the payments by this evening or Wednesday at the latest.”
Kathmandu Knights’ English player Alex Blake also said the players were yet to be paid. “I don’t know what’s happening here and obviously, it's not a great situation,” said Blake, one of the consistent performers in the tournament. “We have come during the Christmas leaving behind our families to play in the tournament. But we haven’t seen anything yet, so it’s a bit worrying.”
Some players and officials, including Biratnagar’s Zimbabwean batter Sikandar Raza and Janakpur’s Indian coach Umesh Patwal, have already left the tournament midway, which many have associated with match fixing and payment issues.
Among the 34 matches scheduled as part of the tournament, 22 have already been played. The final is scheduled for January 11.