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Indian farmers streamed fake pro cricket matches to Russian bettors for two weeks

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Complete with fake sound effects and a professional-sounding commentator

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2019 IPL Final - Mumbai v Chennai
A real IPL game featuring the Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, two of the teams the farmers attempted to impersonate.
Photo by Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

A group of Indian farmers set up a fake Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament so convincing that they managed to trick a Russian audience into making real bets. According to a report from the Times of India, the fake games took place on a farm in the village of Gujarat, with 21 farm laborers and unemployed teens who were each paid 400 rupees (~$5 USD) and tasked with impersonating “pro” cricket players from well-known Indian teams.

The farmers reportedly livestreamed the tournament to YouTube over the course of two weeks and even set up a Telegram channel dedicated to the games. That’s where they took bets from Russian gamblers located in Tver, Voronezh, and Moscow, despite the fact that the actual IPL’s 2022 season closed out in late May.

But the farmers managed to dupe its Russian audience anyway, thanks to some clever thinking and a makeshift setup. They set up five HD cameras and halogen lights around the field, as well as added sound effects that mimicked the noise from a real crowd.

Players swapped between jerseys belonging to the Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, and Gujarat Titans, while an “umpire” paraded the field with walkie-talkies. As the games progressed, one man took on the role of famous cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle, who actually acknowledged the group’s epic scam on Twitter.

Shoeb Davda, one of the masterminds behind the phony tournament, fed instructions to the umpire based on the live bets they received from the Russians. The umpire would then make a signal to the batsman and bowler to steer bets in their favor. Indian police busted four of the savvy con men during the tournament’s “quarter-finals,” who were just taking delivery of 300,000 rupees (~$3,775 USD) from Russian bettors before the shutdown.