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It's not cricket - India again bowled over by scandals

South African Wayne Parnell is the other cricketer among those rounded up in the drug bust at a Mumbai party. (AFP PHOTO)

Publication Date : 25-05-2012

 

The Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament is known for its glitz and glamour with cheerleaders imported from the West, players being auctioned for millions of dollars and sought-after parties.

But a series of recent scandals followed by Sports Minister Ajay Maken suggesting a probe into the finances of the league is giving the cricketing bonanza a bad name, and yet again pushing the game itself to the background.

Two cricketers - Indian Rahul Sharma and South African Wayne Parnell - were among those rounded up at a party busted for drugs by the police in Mumbai at the weekend. Meanwhile, Australian cricketer Luke Pomersbach had been accused of molesting a woman and beating up her fiance - charges which were apparently withdrawn yesterday. And Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, a team owner, is facing a five-year ban from a stadium in Mumbai after an altercation with cricket officials.

But more serious is the recent suspension of five IPL Indian cricketers following a television expose on a case in which they allegedly took money for fixing matches.

"Controversies have taken the sheen off the IPL and raised questions about the credibility of the tournament," said cricketer Akash Chopra, who played in the IPL last year. "It is a shame because the quality of cricket in this edition has been very good."

The IPL arrived in India with a big bang in 2008 with cricketers getting fat pay cheques and rich team owners. The list of owners ranged from India's richest man Mukesh Ambani to liquor and airline baron Vijay Mallya to Bollywood superstar Khan.

Cricket teams were named after cities - such as the Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders - with the best cricketers from around the world playing with relatively unknown players.

But the IPL soon ran into controversy.

In 2010, former IPL chief Lalit Modi was ousted following allegations of financial irregularities which he has denied. Junior minister Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign last year after Modi accused him of using his clout to influence a team bid.

Now, questions are again swirling around the vast amount of money floating around in the league, which is said to be worth US$3.67 billion, amid speculation of the presence of illicit money.

The television sting operation carried out by a private Indian channel showed relatively unknown players confessing to fixing matches and alleging the involvement of well-known Indian and international cricketers and even of team officials.

Demands are increasing for more transparency in salaries given to cricketers, bringing the game into the ambit of the Right to Information Act, stricter regulations and a code of conduct.

"I'm not against the IPL but the way it is run. There is no transparency, accountability or discipline," said former cricketer and opposition lawmaker Kirti Azad from the Bharatiya Janata Party, who is asking for action against the league.

Those who run the league said the recent spate of controversies had nothing to do with playing cricket and a probe is on over the sting operation.

Still, many believe that bringing in greater transparency will be good for the IPL.

"All is not bad. It is very good for cricketers and cricket. It is bringing a lot of employment. But there has to be transparency if you want to make it a world-class event," said Chopra.

 

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