YouTube videos of fake Indian cricket matches were convincing enough to fool Russian players

A screenshot from a video showing fake players bowling and batting on a bare cricket pitch.

Screenshot: Youtube – RC Vlogs

Several suspected Indian crooks have been arrested for tricking Russians into betting on fake cricket matches which they broadcast live on YouTube using a complicated system of Telegram chats and walkie-talkies to call players on the pitch. Alright… yeah… wait, what? Beyond the outlandish nature of the scheme, this is one of those cases where you hear about an elaborate scam and think, “haven’t you heard of crypto?”

Multiple reports citing police in Gujarat state in western India said this YouTube-based cricket crime paid around two dozen farmers and other unemployed youths to impersonate for professional players, exchanging shirts between matches. In a scam that lasted two weeks, each player was paid around 400 rupees, or about $5 per game. The Washington Post reported that police received a tip about the fake league last week and raided one of the fake games.

Bhavesh Rathod, a Gujarat state police officer, told reporters that the farmers who participated are not under arrest and are being treated as witnesses., according to the Post. That’s good, because while players were getting paid peanuts to swing or bowl, the “brains” behind the scheme raked in 300,000 rupees, or a little less than $4,000 from Russian players, according to The Guardian.

The India time reported four people have been arrested so far, based on local police information. Indian cops branded Shoeb Davda the “chief organizer” of the scam who had previously worked at a Russian sports betting bar. Davda then paid a local farmer to let him carry out his scam. Another police-appointed man, Asif Mohammed, orchestrated the scheme and showed the Russians the intricacies of cricket. Two of the other people arrested are said to have acted as referees on the field.

Indian newspapers reported that the cricket competition was promoted through a YouTube channel that went by the simple name IPL Professional League, the acronym for the Indian Premier League. Russians were lured into a Telegram channel during these fake live broadcasts where scammers took bets. Indian police said the scammers would call the betting referees of the marks using walkie-talkies, warning them to order a certain hit or takedown.

The batters and bowlers of the fake teams were dressed in uniforms that mimicked the look of real IPL teams like Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans. The fake IPL YouTube channel has since been taken down, but recorded video of those matches still persists. The field of view is narrow enough that you cannot see any of the supposed crowds or stalls. Gizmodo could not independently verify the video, but it matches video provided by police to other outlets.

Comment by Harsha bhogle in Fake ipl | FAKE Ipl gujarat Harsha bhogle #fakeipl #fakeiplgujarat

What did it take to fool these Russian sports players? The fake IPL started its fake tournament three weeks after the real IPL ended in May, according to police. They also used simple computer graphics to display the scores and played crowd noise sound effects which police say were downloaded from the internet.

Reports said the scammers even had a speaker who could sound like real Indian cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle to offer some play-by-plays. The real-life commentator was apparently tickled by the news. He even posted his reaction on his Twitter.

But the payouts the frontrunners received were apparently a small change from what they spent setting up the fake cricket pitch. Due to the low amounts paid to each of the scammers, Rathod told WaPo reporters that the scam could be “much larger.”

Raymond T. Helms