Police in India have shut down an elaborate hoax cricket league that saw labourers masquerading as professional cricket players allegedly to dupe gamblers in Russia.
Fashioned along the lines of the popular Indian Premier League, a group of men in the western Indian state of Gujarat hired a field, set up cameras and asked local labourers to dress up in team uniforms and play cricket.
The games were then streamed on YouTube to unsuspecting betting operations in Russia, who bet on match outcomes, Achal Tyagi, the top police official in Mehsana district told Reuters.
“They had umpires with walkie-talkie sets to officiate as they have in IPL and international cricket matches. The set-up was good enough to trick unsuspecting people into believing it was a genuine cricket league,” Mr Tyagi said.
The YouTube stream included downloaded sound effects to give the impression of a crowd and even a real-life commentator who sounded like famous pundit Harsha Bhogle.
They played for two weeks and got so far as the “knock-out quarter-final” before their ruse was discovered.
Police arrested four people in connection with the case on Friday. Gamblers had bet at least 300,000 rupees on the matches.
Mr Tyagi said the umpires were telling players whether to score runs or get out depending on the instructions they were given on the walkie-talkie sets received from the organisers, who in turn were receiving instructions from an accomplice in Russia on the Telegram app.
Betting on cricket is illegal in India, and the four arrested have been charged with criminal conspiracy and gambling, local officials said.