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IPL rocked by corruption allegations

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN

(CNN) -- It changed the game in two years.

In 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL) spiced up cricket with a maiden tournament of a shortened, razzle-dazzle version of the sport.

With business tycoons, movie actors, multinational advertisers, star international players and a billion viewers on its hook, the IPL flourished through the global recession to be rated as the world's richest cricket tournament.

But the phenomenal project is in a crisis now as it faces a probe over allegations of money-laundering and betting.

"I can assure the honorable members that all aspects of (the) IPL, including its source of funding, from where the funds were routed, how they have been invested, etc., are being looked into and the appropriate action as per law will be taken," Indian finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told lawmakers in federal parliament Monday.

"No guilty or wrongdoers will be spared," he vowed.

The scandal surfaced when Lalit Modi, the IPL's creator, accused India's junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor of using his position to secure a stake for a female friend in a $333-million successful bid for a new team.

Tharoor denied wrongdoing, insisting he was only a "mentor" to the consortium that had bought the new club in last month's auction.

Nonetheless, the 54-year-old minister resigned from his post as opposition pressure mounted on him to quit government.

Lawmakers from the Left groups, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and from some of the country's powerful regional political outfits have slammed the IPL format of cricket.

"The moot question is the IPL and not Shashi Tharoor," The Hindu newspaper quoted Sharad Yadav, leader of a regional party, as saying.

Some sought a complete ban on the IPL, while others demanded it be nationalized.

After Tharoor's exit from office, the focus now appears to be on Modi, the man credited with raising the IPL as one of the world's hottest sporting properties.

He denies allegations of fund irregularities in his venture, rejecting the claims as "absolutely baseless, ill-founded and motivated."

In a nation where cricket is seen as another religion, the scandal has divided the population.

"Neither the call raised in parliament to nationalize the cricket league nor the one to ban it makes sense," said an editorial in the Economic Times.

"What such exhortations show is the sense of betrayal that cricket lovers feel over the illicit personal enrichment, or an attempt thereof, that has been made out of their passion for the game. Indians deserve better. They deserve good, clean fun when it come to organized, professional sport," it added.

This year's IPL had already been cast under a cloud by a double bomb blast just outside one of the stadiums on Saturday.

The explosions in Bangalore left 14 people injured and led to the relocation of this week's two semifinals to Mumbai.

Banglore's England batsman Kevin Pietersen admitted he was "rattled" and "scared" by the bombings.