Sunday, July 23, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cricketers lose shine
From T.V. Lakshminarayan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 22 — ‘‘Palmolive da jawab nahin’’. These words from Kapil Dev a few years ago were enough to spur thousands of 15-year-olds to try their father’s razor. Sachin had to just say that he likes Action shoes and thousands of tiny tots could be seen wearing them to school.

Cricket and those who played it were indeed a national obsession.

A series of allegations and counter allegations of match-fixing, bribery and irregularities, the unpleasant disclosures by Hansie Cronje and the recent raids by the Income Tax Department and CBI on the premises of cricketers have made these national heroes ‘‘zeroes’’ and the game itself the most cursed and debated.

For those associated with the game, the loss is not only of admiration and fans, it means the loss of a multi-million dollar business.

Never before in India has any sport been so strongly backed by the corporate sector. Capitalising on the national craze have been companies trying to peddle everything from biscuits to beer, jams to jeans, and anything and everything under the sun in the name of cricket.

The popularity of the game could be gauged from some of the advertising statistics of the World Cup last year. Conservative estimates by advertisement professionals indicated that top companies pumped in something like Rs 200 crore to advertise their products during the tournament.

Indian companies queued up to buy up all advertising spots available in the various television channels. They did not mind paying more than Rs 3 lakh for a 30 second spot.

Companies like Britannia Industries, Hero Honda, S. Kumars, Pepsi and Coca Cola spent crores of rupees in promotions.

Then came the allegations of match-fixing and bribery. The unearthing of the Cronje tapes by the Delhi police sunk the game to an unimaginable low.

An opinion poll conducted by a leading weekly magazine soon after the Delhi police made the startling allegations revealed that 64 per cent of respondents felt betrayed by the revelations. Around 50 per cent of them said their interest in watching cricket had declined since the Hansie Cronje tapes became public. Around 66 per cent of them said they would not want their son to play cricket for India.

The advertising companies which normally keep a tab on the people’s pulse were quick to realise the nation’s mood. The first casualty was Cronje himself when a suiting company removed the hoardings carrying his portrait.

The trend spells financial disaster for the country’s cricket icons. At any time, a player like Tendulkar has everything — from his cap to his wristband to bat, pads and the entire wherewithal — sponsored for hundreds of thousands of rupees.

A senior official with a leading advertising firm admitted that cricketers were out of fashion today. Film personalities are the latest craze among the people and that is why one sees more of Shahrukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan on the idiot box and the hoardings.

Unfortunately, cricket’s loss is no other sports’ gain. India does not have any other game that can match up to the status of cricket, an advertising professional remarked.

Several companies which had signed long-term contracts with cricket stars to promote their products have quietly withdrawn the advertisements and replaced them with product specific promotions.Back


Raids provide ‘tangible’ proof

NEW DELHI, July 22 (PTI) — The raids on leading cricketers, administrators and bookies have provided ‘‘cogent’’ evidence of amassing of wealth which has ‘‘direct nexus with match-fixing’’, the government said today even as the Income Tax authorities prepared to open over 60 bank lockers sealed during the two-day operations.

Minister of State for Finance Dhananjaya Kumar told reporters in Bangalore that the Income Tax Department had gathered ‘‘substantive and tangible’’ evidence to prove concealment of wealth, evasion of tax and ‘‘some kind of nexus in match-fixing for amassing this kind of concealed wealth’’.

Meanwhile, IT sources here said that the department has begun a detailed examination of a large number of documents and materials across the country. Mr Kumar, however, said the IT Department was not the final authority to say whether the wealth was generated out of match-fixing or some other kind of acts. ‘‘We have got hold of some information which could be of help for other agencies probing allegations of match-fixing,’’ he said adding the IT Department was only concerned about collecting tax dues as other criminal aspects would be looked into by other agencies.

He said the department would need a minimum of two months to complete the ‘‘proceedings and establish ‘‘connections’’ since nobody would make a ‘‘frank admission’’.

He said the quantum of tax evasion was yet to be assessed. Bank lockers located and identified during the searches were being opened.

If proved guilty, the Income Tax Department could collect 69 per cent of the undeclared and unexplained wealth from the cricketers, administrators and the bookies, he said adding they could be prosecuted for not declaring income on time, non-filing of returns, non-payment of taxes with imprisonment ranging from three to seven years.

UNI adds: The countrywide simultaneous raids by the Income Tax Department on cricketers, administrators of the game and bookies on Thursday led the sleuths to Samata Party President Jaya Jaitley’s house in south Delhi where Ajay Jadeja’s car and golf kit were found. On Monday, IT officials will open the seized lockers and start appraisal of the documents picked up during the raids.

‘‘We were on the trail of Jadeja and this led the officials to a house which was later found to be of Ms Jaitley,’’ sources in the IT Department confirmed today. ‘‘We had information that some of Jadeja’s belongings were kept in that house,’’ the sources said adding that Ms Jaitley cooperated and her statement was recorded.

Meanwhile, Director-General (investigations) S.C. Parija said the post search appraisal of the seized documents would start on Monday when the lockers would also be opened. Searches were carried at about 85 locations spread over several cities.

‘‘The searches continued for more than 22 hours spread over two days”

PUNE: The Income Tax authorities on Friday night searched the flat belonging to film actress Sangeeta Bijlani, wife of cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin, at Palace Orchard, in Undri suburb on the outskirts of the city. Another flat which has been sealed is situated next to Sangeeta’s flat and belongs to her relative.


Kapil asks IT Dept to end rumours

NEW DELHI, July 22 (PTI) —Cricketer Kapil Dev today asked the Income Tax Department to clarify the raids on those in the cricket world so that “rumours and baseless statements” could be avoided.

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