NEW DELHI – A casual reader of India’s newspapers for the last several weeks would be forgiven for wondering whether the country was suddenly bereft of political controversy, sex scandals, or official corruption – normally the standard headline fare here. The newspapers’ front pages have had space – under massive banner headlines – only for a topic normally reserved for the sports pages: cricket.
The cause is not some particularly exciting test match. Instead, the public has been outraged by lurid accusations concerning the Indian Premier League (IPL) – bribes for bad play, owners betting on games, and players seduced by starlets and call girls. The national captain was revealed to have a conflict of interest, and the son-in-law of Indian cricket’s most powerful official was implicated in an illegal gambling operation run by a sinister network of bookies.
The police, whose phone taps led to a wave of arrests, have filed charges alleging involvement by well-known organized crime figures. They have even linked a player for India’s national team to the fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, widely suspected of being the architect of the 1993 Bombay bombings, who has been hiding in Pakistan.