New Delhi: Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA)'s iconic tournament Kanga League was hit by a controversy after the 'A' division game between Muslim United and Apollo at Islam Gymkhana.
According to a report in the Indian Express, allegations of match-fixing and manipulation were leveled by two clubs - Karnatak Sporting Association and Sainath Sports Club - in a letter to MCA.
"The concluding match of this season created a bad name to tournament by fixing a crucial match to avoid relegation to lower division (Sic)," wrote KSA secretary Jaya Shetty in the letter.
Last game, post which teams faced relegation, of the League was played on November 8.
The fact Apollo, managed by Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni, fielded with just 8 players led to a big controversy.
"Apollo scored a paltry 88 runs in the first innings was replied by MU 288, declared, in second innings. Apollo all out for very small total, in result Muslim United registered innings win over the opponent to grab maximum points to avoid relegation to ‘B division. Apollo team position was already confirmed for relegation (Sic)." Shetty further added in his letter.
Sainath CC cricket secretary Ajay Seth had in fact warned the MCA about possible attempts of a team manipulating match results in a letter to joint secretary Unmesh Khanvilkar and PV Shetty three days before the final round of games.
In a prompt response, the cricket association had not only appointed senior umpires but also deputed an observer for the match.
"The matter was heard then and we were even informed about the result of this particular game. The matter will now be placed in front of the Kanga league committee and managing committee which will decide the further course of action," MCA joint secretary Shetty told the newspaper.
"Did Apollo play the same players from Game 1 to Game 13? It was very clear from the start of the match that Apollo will loose with a bonus point despite of sending an observer. Apollo played with the boys who’ve never played the Kanga league which clearly indicates that this match was manipulated and fixed by both the teams," said Seth.
However, MCA joint secretary Kulkarni denied all allegations.
"We played with eleven players but two of my players Ankit Shastri and Sunil Yadav fell sick during the game. I too was not well but still I came to the ground. Anything can happen in cricket. We did not play with junior cricketers. We gave chance to those who had not got games as irrespective of the result, we were going to be relegated. All these allegations are false and baseless," Kulkarni stated.
Match observer Vishwas Nerurkar wrote in his report to the MCA that Apollo team batsmen were in no mood to bat for a long time and went for big shots.
"In the bargain they lost all wickets in 86 runs within 16 overs in just an hour,” was his observation.
He also mentioned that the likes of Shastri and Sunil Yadav, despite claiming to be "injured and/or not well" were in the pavilion through the course of the match and did not participate in the match even after umpire's intervention.
“How can you prove that match was fixed?
There was an observer and an umpire, and if they had felt anything was suspicious they should have stopped play. 16 wickets felt of Apollo against us as two of them were not feeling well. Tell me can’t 16 wickets fall in cricket? These are mere allegations without any proof. If MCA knew about this then they should have done something about it. We also hear so many things about this team and that match but these are allegations with no head or tail,” Iqbal Thakur of Muslim United was quoted as saying in the newspaper report.