Bengaluru, July 19: Cash or kind? Prostitutes and money. That's your entry into the state team! Indian cricket could be facing another major controversy as hindi news channel News1 India reported that a member from IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla's team, Akram Saifi, is taking bribes in cash and/or kind to give away spots to aspiring cricketers in the Uttar Pradesh state team.
The news channel in Uttar Pradesh telecast an alleged phone conversation between Saifi, an executive assistant of Shukla, and cricketer Rahul Sharma in which Saifi is reportedly heard seeking favours in "cash and kind" to ensure Sharma's selection in the team.
Corruption has been the root cause for the sad state of UP cricket and it stands exposed today. Shame that the future of young talent and UP cricket is compromised for personal gains. Hope fair investigation would help restore the the dignity of the sport to its former glory.— R P Singh (@rpsingh) July 19, 2018
Three cricketers revealed to the channel that selectors of the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association have asked for money for selection in the team as well. One of the cricketers chose not to reveal his identity. Apart from Rahul Sharma, who has not appeared in the state team, the second cricketer, Bhupendra Singh told the channel that the selectors asked for Rs. 2 lacs from him, while Sharma claimed he was asked to give 5 lacs. Sharma also claimed that Saifi, who is close to Shukla, also provides fake age certificates. Sharma has never played for India and has not been a part of the state team either. This has drawn a strong reaction from BCCI and former cricketers as well.
The BCCI's Anti-Corruption Unit on Thursday (July 19) said it will launch a probe into the alleged bribery scandal unearthed by the sting operation.
Shukla is currently the UPCA Secretary. "We have taken note of the sting and will examine the entire matter. We will be asking the channel for the audio and also examine the player involved. Until we speak to the people involved, it is difficult to say anything as of now," BCCI's ACU chief Ajit Singh told PTI.
Meanwhile, Saifi has denied all the charges. "We are open to any inquiry. We follow a very transparent selection process at the UPCA. I can't comment on the conversation between the two as it is their personal matter," said UPCA's Joint Secretary Yudhveer Singh, dismissing the charges of corruption in selection.
"I have checked about Rahul Sharma and found out that he has never even been a part of the state probables. He has no credibility," he added.
Shukla has not yet reacted to the allegations while the BCCI sought to steer clear of any association with Saifi even though it admitted that his salary is paid from the Board's funds.
"The BCCI only allocates funds for its office-bearers' personal staff. They are free to appoint people of their choice as executive assistants and their salaries come from this fund. However, the Board has got nothing to do with these staffers," a top Board official said.
Shocked to hear about the extent of corruption in UP Cricket. Young talent being curbed by corrupt agents asking for favours. Hope @ShuklaRajiv ji ensures a fair investigation and justice to the young talent & helps restore UP Cricket.I stand by all those who have been exploited— Mohammad Kaif (@MohammadKaif) July 19, 2018
"We only provide funds to the office-bearers to keep personal staff. Who they hire is their concern and the staffers report to them, not to the Board," he added.
Former India player and UP captain Mohammad Kaif said the allegations have stunned him and demanded a probe into the matter.
"Shocked to hear about the extent of corruption in UP Cricket. Young talent being curbed by corrupt agents asking for favours. Hope @ShuklaRajiv ji ensures a fair investigation and justice to the young talent & helps restore UP Cricket. I stand by all those who have been exploited," he tweeted.
Kaif, who recently retired from all cricket, had captained UP to its maiden Ranji Trophy title in the 2005-06 season.
Source: (PTI and agencies)