ad info

TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards

TIME Asia Asiaweek Asia Now TIME Asia story
JUNE 19, 2000 VOL. 158 NO. 24

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

Pakistan last week won the Asia Cup beating India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the biennial tournament. But the celebrations that would normally mark such a victory were muted. There was little interest in the matches, and the crowds that normally mob the windows of television shops to follow play were conspicuously absent. So too were the most visible signposts of cricket's mass appeal in South Asia: the huge advertising billboards from which the sport's heroes endorse everything from tires to toothpaste. The once unquestioned support for cricket is showing signs of collapse. The game, it seems, is going through a crisis of confidence.


COVER: Visions of the 21st Century
Innovations will enhance but not surpass human beings. Smart books, uppity robots and cybersex. Are you ready?

INDONESIA: Don't Cry for Suharto: The Indonesian government gets tough on the former President, but student activists worry he may never be called to account

Chaos reigns as the Prime Minister is put under house arrest
• Fiji: Coup leader Speight is running out of options

CRICKET: Conduct Unbecoming Rocked by revelations of match-fixing and bribe-taking, the "Gentleman's Game" is struggling to regain respectability

Jetlag? Learn How To Get Time On Your Side

Across the region and beyond, cricket is under a blanket of mistrust--its players under suspicion, its administrators under fire and its fans growing angry. Revelations over the past two months have exposed a worldwide network of match-fixing, bribe-taking, corruption, sleaze, strong-arm tactics, underworld links, cheating and official indifference that threatens to undermine cricket's image as the "Gentleman's Game"--and to alienate its mass following. The latest scandals that have come to light in India, Pakistan and South Africa have touched every major cricketing country and hit for six some of the game's most famous practitioners. Fans are not amused. "It is now difficult to see any performance without doubting it," says Annie Mathews, a New Delhi theatre and film production consultant who used to be glued to her television set when India played. "Every run-out, every umpiring decision, you wonder if it is actually true." Like Mathews, millions of fans feel their favorite game has turned into a farce. In an opinion poll conducted by the popular website last week, 60.4% of respondents said the scandals had forever tainted cricket; only 19.8% said the sport would recover.

To the non-cricket-loving world the sport is eccentrically and quintessentially English, played on a manicured oval lawn over five days--with breaks for lunch and afternoon tea. The reality, however, is far different. The game has been transformed into a gladiatorial contest often played under lights and usually for just one day, sponsored by some of the world's biggest corporations, carrying millions of dollars in bets--mostly illegal--and commanding TV audiences in the millions. The epicenter of cricket has also moved half-way around the world from the Marylebone Cricket Club (mcc) at Lord's Cricket Ground in London to the Indian subcontinent, where the sport has a mass following across caste, class and creed. "It is our football," says V. Krishnaswamy, cricket commentator and sports editor for the Indian Express group of newspapers.

And "our" means nearly a quarter of the world's population, squeezed into four South Asian countries. With an audience that exceeds 1.2 billion and has a taste for betting, a practice outlawed in most places, the game is ripe for abuse. A complex sport, cricket offers hundreds of permutations for wagering: individual batting and bowling performances, ways of being dismissed, as well as the final result. And some punters, it turns out, have enough money to roll a match. Close followers of the game have long suspected foul play. Now it's out in the open.

As India's Central Bureau of Investigation last week broadened its inquiry into charges of match-fixing, a judicial commission in Cape Town began hearings into corruption in South African cricket. The commission, under retired judge Edwin King, was set up after the country's cricketing hero and captain, Hansie Cronje, admitted in April he had accepted between $10,000 and $15,000 from Indian bookmakers for "forecasting and providing information" during South Africa's tour of India last year. He was fired. A born-again Christian and a hero to South African cricket fans, Cronje was caught after police telephone taps in India picked up calls between him and Indian bookmakers discussing payments. Betting is illegal in India, except on horse racing. Cronje blamed Satan for his transgression and said he had "taken his eyes off Jesus," an explanation that carried little weight in South Africa and even less in India.

The hearings in Cape Town got under way with a series of sensational revelations. South Africa's opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs said he had accepted an offer of $15,000 through Cronje from bookmakers to score fewer than 20 runs at a match in India in March. He went on to score 74 and wasn't paid. Retired spin bowler Pat Symcox alleged that, as far back as 1995, Cronje had asked him what he thought of a $250,000 offer he had received to lose a match against Pakistan. "I told him it was a bad idea," Symcox said. And the team's security chief, a former police officer, said Cronje had confessed to him in tears in April that he was guilty of match-fixing.

Last month, after much delay, the Pakistan Cricket Board finally made public a government-ordered investigation into match-fixing. The board acted apparently under pressure from cricket's controlling body, the London-based International Cricket Council (icc), amid reports that Pakistan would be suspended from competition if it did not carry out the inquiry's recommendations. The board banned former captain Salim Malik and bowler Ata-ur-Rehman for life for match-fixing and fined six other players for "improprieties." Malik's accusers included Australian spin bowlers Shane Warne and Tim May, and batsman Mark Waugh, who said he offered them cash to swing a match during Australia's 1994 tour of Pakistan. Warne and Waugh were found guilty the following year of taking money from bookmakers for "weather reports and pitch conditions" during a tournament in Sri Lanka on the same tour. They were fined by the Australian Cricket Board. In the same week that Pakistan acted against players accused of match-fixing, the Australian board appointed a special investigator to handle similar accusations against the home squad.

But it was on India that the spotlight settled after retired all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar and a journalist from the online magazine made a secret video incriminating several leading figures in Indian cricket and posted the transcripts on the Internet. Among those named were ex-captain and now coach Kapil Dev who, Prabhakar alleges, offered him $57,000 to throw a match against Pakistan in the Singer Cup tournament in Colombo in 1994. (Dev denied the allegations and has filed a defamation suit against Prabhakar and "My objective," says Prabhakar, "is to clean up Indian cricket. I was expecting our boys to do the same as Hansie Cronje--come forward and say, 'Yes, I've erred.'"

But experience has shown that no one in cricket comes forward unless caught in the act. Says Graeme Wright, New Zealand-born editor of Wisden's Almanack, the cricketer's bible: "There's a very fine line drawn between taking money for being a player and taking money for something that might influence the way the game is bet upon." He would like cricket to follow the path of tennis and let players have more influence over how the game is run. Former Australian batsman Dean Jones suggests a "base fee" for all international teams and matching levels of pay. "Not everyone is corrupt, and not everyone is involved," he says, having announced earlier that he was offered $50,000 by an Indian player in 1992 to make forecasts to a bookmaker. (Jones said he was afraid to name the player because of suspected underworld connections.)

The amounts of money involved are staggering. In India, an estimated $500 million is wagered on cricket annually. Police suspect most betting and match-fixing is under the control of Bombay's criminal underworld. Since the advent of private TV in India in the late 1980s, sponsorship deals for teams, matches and players have skyrocketed. Team appearance fees for matches often exceed $500,000. Sachin Tendulkar, India's star batsman and national hero is estimated to have an annual income of around $3 million.

Most of the money goes to the national boards that run the game, giving rise to accusations of high-level corruption, especially kickbacks for TV rights. More is spent on meetings and travel, critics say, than on promoting cricket and schooling new players. In Colombo last week, armed police were called in to keep the peace between rival factions during voting for a new cricket board that will control the richest sport in Sri Lanka.

What next for the Gentleman's Game? When American baseball was torn by a betting scandal 80 years ago, its leaders appointed a commissioner who cleaned up the game and restored its reputation. Cricket's governing body, the icc, has drawn up a set of rules and punishments covering players and gambling. Wright says that's not enough. "There are too many bodies with their own interests at heart, and the icc doesn't have the authority to investigate or to hand down the sentences that might be necessary."

Some of the game's administrators take a more optimistic view. "Cricket has an extraordinary way of reconstituting itself," says former England captain and mcc committee member Ted Dexter. "There have been periods in my lifetime when I really feared the worst. But the game has recovered." Nobody can say how long that might take. Meanwhile, the stench of corruption lingers on.

With reporting by Michael Fitzgerald/Sydney, Meenakshi Ganguly and Maseeh Rahman/New Delhi, Kate Noble/London, Guy Hawthorne/Johannesburg, Ghulam Hasnain/Karachi and Waruna Karunatilake/Colombo

Write to TIME at

This edition's table of contents
TIME Asia home


Quick Scroll: More stories from TIME, Asiaweek and CNN


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN

Back to the top   © 2000 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.