India may ban autographs on corruption fears


NEW DELHI: India’s cricketers have been asked not to give autographs to fans during matches because of fears they will pass on illegal information to bookmakers, a newspaper report said Monday.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is under pressure to crack down on corruption following a series of betting and fixing scandals that rocked its Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament.

“We have asked cricketers not to give autographs” while the cricket body considers introducing an outright ban, BCCI official K.S. Madhavan told the Times of India.

The time-honoured tradition could be stopped at all matches organised by the BCCI including the highly popular IPL and the Champions League Twenty20, he said.

As the World Cup moves towards quarter-final showdowns in Australia and New Zealand, Madhavan said the BCCI was also trying to ban autograph signing during matches held overseas.

“It is a dangerous exercise and we are trying to push for a worldwide ban on this,” Madhavan, the BCCI’s senior investigating officer, told the newspaper.

Madhavan said a fan seeking an autograph could in fact be a ruse for a player scribbling match information to a bookie.

“This (autographs) could be a method through which bookies may connect with cricketers.”

“Through an autograph book, a bookie can exchange vital information with a player. For example, he can be asked to score a particular number of runs while batting.”

BCCI general manager Ratnakar Shetty declined to comment on the report when contacted by AFP.

The IPL season in 2013 was mired in controversy after police launched legal proceedings against several officials and cricketers, including former Test fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, for illegal betting and spot-fixing.

International news organisations including Agence France-Presse have suspended on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since 2012 after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies. (AFP)