Fixing is so rife in the domestic T20 league that players on opposing sides in one match were on different bookies' payrolls, a high-level police source said on Wednesday. This led to a situation that would have been funny if it hadn't been so scandalous: batsmen on each side had cut deals with bookies to lose the game.
The side batting first notched up a meagre total that it fully expected would ensure defeat. But the team batting second outdid their rivals by making even fewer runs, and duly lost. Result: embarrassment in one dressing room, and one set of flabbergasted bookies.
"The losses for the bookies in league with the team batting first were huge, running into crores," said the source.
The fall from grace of S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan has been dramatic, but if some police suspicions are well-founded, the trio could swiftly become an ignominious footnote to a much bigger story.
The police source said the range, sweep and depth of fixing in the ongoing T20 league were "mind-boggling".
For a start, the cops have realised that the bookies who had lured the three players are relatively small fry in the betting world.
The "big bookies, whom we are trying to ensnare, have possibly some of the big names of world cricket on their payrolls," he said.
"Though at the moment the focus of investigation is on these three Rajasthan Royal players, we are getting enough leads that point at other players and teams."
Apart from those involved in the match which the rival teams competed to lose, Delhi Police are also pursuing leads on three players from one more team.
Among those under the scanner are foreign players, especially from a country whose players are known for their explosive batting exploits.
Worse could be in store. Though the T-20 league has quickly degenerated into a battlefield for fixers, the 50-over game and Test cricket, the highest form of the game, are not beyond their sphere of influence.
"We have enough leads to suggest that the Champions Trophy tournament, which is scheduled for next month in England, is being targeted by the bookies," the source said.
Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, a cricket fan, is said to be determined to get to the root of this problem before he retires in July.