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.
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.
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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