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Sherwin Crasto/AP
Former South African captain Hansie Cronje is not the only high-profile cricketer implicated in the match-fixing report.

WEB-ONLY EXCLUSIVE
Cricket Bombshell
The publication of a sensational report into match-fixing has rocked the world of cricket once more
By MEENAKSHI GANGULY

November 2, 2000
Web posted at 3:00 p.m. Hong Kong time, 3:00 a.m. EDT


It is not that India has lacked heroes. But they only seem to be found in textbooks or at roundabouts at city intersections with pigeons resting on their heads. Indians greatly admire and respect these great men and women, but it is not easy to love statues. You need real people.

After a brief period of attaching themselves to movie star Amitabh Bachchan, Indians transferred their devotion to several living men: cricket players. For over a decade -- once satellite television began to deliver live matches to cabled households -- the game became a national obsession. Collective prayers, once reserved for political leaders, were now rounded up for eleven men who, with bat and ball, could restore the nation to world glory. Indians finally had their heroes.

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But not for long. The team began to lose more often than they won. "Never mind," said their indulgent fans. "They tried." Until it turned out that they had indeed tried: TO LOSE! So had players in several other teams. Fingers were pointed as weeping players confessed. With allegations and charges flying about in one of the greatest mud-slinging matches in the history of cricket, India's premier law enforcement agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, launched an inquiry. And its damning report, released on Wednesday, has thrown the sport into turmoil, yet again, by naming several leading players from the major Test-playing nations. (Click here to read the full report). So now it's official. India's heroes are no more.

The report concluded: "The romanticism associated with the game is perhaps hone for ever. Increasingly, in the playing fields around the world, the music of a sweetly timed stroke is being replaced by the harsh cacophony of ringing cell phones."

The CBI confirmed that corrupt bookies had been paying the players to perform badly to better their odds in the illegal gambling circuit. Those named in the report (it does not specify if the players actually took bribes or not) were India's ex-captain Mohammad Azharuddin and teammates Nayan Mongia, Ajay Jadeja and Ajay Sharma. The foreign players named were West Indian batsman Brian Lara, former England captain Alec Stewart, Sri Lanka's Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga, former South African captain Hansie Cronje, Australians Mark Waugh and Dean Jones, New Zealand's Martin Crowe and Pakistan's Salim Malik.

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It Certainly Isn't Cricket
A wave of sleaze hits the "Gentleman's Game," as players are implicated, organizers are blamed and fans are furious (June 19, 2000)

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Charges that South Africa's Hansie Cronje took money to throw matches soil the image of the Gentleman's Game (April 24, 2000)

Subcontinental Drift: Crooked Cricket
And how the Gentleman's Game can be saved (April 13, 2000)

World Cup Special: Days of Glory
Once a novelty, the one-day showcase now delivers the best contest on earth, thanks in large part to the passion and excellence of the game's Asian exponents (May 17, 1999)

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A hotly contested cricket series between India and Pakistan takes the subcontinent to the brink (February 1, 1999)

The foreign players were named by bookies when they listed their beneficiaries. Among the Indians, former captain Azharuddin confessed in his deposition that he had received large sums of money. He also named two teammates as fellow recipients: Jadeja, who has steadfastly pleaded his innocence, although the bookies have said that he was paid, and former wicket-keeper Mongia, whose name was not corroborated by the bookies questioned.

The man who started the investigation into the entire match-fixing scandal, Manoj Prabhakar, was also named. Prabhakar first wrote about match-fixing in a magazine column, announcing that he had been offered a bribe by a popular cricketer to play badly. He later named the man as Kapil Dev, one of the country's cricket legends. Together with an online magazine, Tehelka.com, Prabhakar then secretly videotaped interviews with colleagues in an effort to indict Dev. (The transcripts are available on Tehelka.)

The CBI found no evidence against Kapil Dev -- who resigned recently as India's coach after denying match-fixing allegations by Prabhakar -- and lambasted the country's Board of Cricket Control. The bureau said it is "clear that the BCCI was, in the face of all the talk about match-fixing through the years, dragging its feet."

What happens next depends on the government? The CBI has simply conducted an inquiry. It has not filed charges. Sports Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said: "The law ministry will decide if we can file charges against the Indian players. I am not certain what will happen about the foreign players."

What is clear, though, is that millions of Indians will now have to find a new hero, or heroes.

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