New Delhi: The Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow made its international debut last week with the second T20I between India and West Indies. And the hosts won. But before all the action unfolded on the ground, something happened and it has raised eyebrows in Uttar Pradesh cricket circles.

On November 6, captains Carlos Brathwaite and Rohit Sharma came out of their dressing rooms to meet Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and they were escorted by a former Indian Premier League (IPL) employee, who was, few months back, caught in a sting operation seeking “sexual favours” from cricketers in exchange for selection in the state team.

The  man in question is Akram Saifi, the personal assistant of IPL chairman and Congress leader Rajeev Shukla.

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In July, Lucknow’s News 1 Hindi news channel broadcast a sting operation on Saifi, where he is heard purportedly seeking “sexual favours” and money against selection in UP’s Under-23 team.

In less than four months, Saifi was back in action, with the BCCI closing an internal probe and the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) giving him a clean chit, with an all-access stadium for India-West Indies game, according to the Indian Express.

In an investigation conducted by the newspaper, the clean chit to Saifi was found to ignore BCCI’s own anti-corruption guidelines and several objections raised by cricketers and former associates.

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The allegations raised against Saifi were agreed to be investigated by BCCI, going by the sting operation, where he was heard in a purported recording of his conversation with an UP player, Rahul Sharma, demanding prostitutes in his hotel room in exchange for selection in the U-23 team.

The tapes of the particular sting operation were asked to be shared by the BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) chief but the board dropped the probe, within weeks, after Saifi resigned as IPL manager. "We didn’t probe Saifi as he resigned from the BCCI,” said BCCI’s ACU chief Ajit Singh Shekhawat.

But according to the Rule 32 of the BCCI’s regulations, any complaint of misconduct has to be decided by a commissioner, who should submit his findings within 15 days.

"Since he (Saifi) was never once a BCCI employee but a personal assistant of the IPL chairman, the moment he was sacked by the IPL chairman, no probe could be done against him.”, Vinod Rai, chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) that is running the BCCI told the Indian Express.

The CoA sources mentioned the committee’s helplessness, who termed it to be a 'sticky' situation where they don't want to interfere in matters of state associations.

Former India batsman and UP ex-captain Mohammad Kaif had expressed shock over the scandal in the state.

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"Shocked to hear about the extent of corruption in up cricket. Young talent being curbed by corrupt agents asking for favours. Hope @ShuklaRajiv ji ensures a fair investigation and justice to the young talent & helps restore UP cricket. I stand by all those who have been exploited (sic)," he had tweeted.

The UPCA, under pressure,  asked its ombudsman, Justice (retd) CK Prasad, to  look into the charges against Saifi who after two and a half months, cleared Saifi.

Rahul, who had retracted his allegations against Saifi, was interviewed by Justice Prasad, during the investigation.

Other names including that of Anurag Mishra, who runs a cricket academy in Unnao, and was allegedly threatened by Saifi for writing on social media against the UPCA’s selection procedure, were not considered.

Saifi denied the allegations but confirmed his association with Shukla for whom he was working.  “Sab khatam ho gaya…. Sir (Rajeev Shukla) ke saath hun, sir ka assistant rahunga. Mera UP cricket se koi lena-dena nahin hai (Everything is over… I am with sir, I will be his assistant. I don’t have anything to do with UP cricket),” he said.