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The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava
An obsessive devotion that attracts big money to the game
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Scandal damages Indian cricket
A typical scene in any Indian park
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

The ongoing controversy over allegations of match-fixing and bribery in cricket has more than just a sporting dimension in India.

Cricket is a huge industry in India, and the game generates tens of millions of dollars in the form of sponsorships and celebrity endorsements.

But with the reputation of the sport and some of its biggest stars reeling from match-fixing allegations, there are fears that this industry will suffer.

Cricket's enormous popularity means superstars can reap huge rewards by lending their names to just about everything from toothpastes to tyres, and soft drinks to credit cards.

Many top Indian players earn 20 times more money from endorsements than from actually playing. Cricketers are treated like Gods by millions of fans - revered, but never questioned.

Children dream of becoming the next Sachin Tendulkar

The recent poor form of the national team matters little to millions of Indian boys dreaming of playing for the national eleven and becoming the next Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara.

Many are willing to put in long hours of training to achieve their ambition, and young players can be seen all over India, braving the blazing sun without caps, and playing barefoot.

Commercial concerns

But experts say times have changed. Some suggest that the motivation for playing the game has moved away from the sheer joy of playing, and the honour of representing one's country to more commercial concerns.

Treated as gods, some cricketers have proved all too human recently
"The players are more keen now to score their own brands for themselves" says former Indian test player Dilip Vegasarkar

The cricketing industry in India has already felt the effects of the recent scandals. An advertisement featuring disgraced former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was withdrawn, and sponsors are now on the defensive.

"The global cricketing community has taken this issue to its heart", says Shailendra Singh who's clothing company was forced to pull the Cronje commercial.

"It's hurt everybody, especially because it was Hansie Cronje, as he stood for discipline, success."

"This entire episode has left us a bit on the back foot," she said.

India's obsessive devotion to cricket attracts big money to the game. But if further scandals are uncovered following the Cronje affair, the billion-dollar cricket industry could suffer further damage

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18 Apr 00 | Cricket
Lewis asked for names
16 Apr 00 | Cricket
Cricket hit by 'fixing' claims
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