Controversies dog IPL cricket, but attendance up

Associated Press
Kolkata Knight Riders' co owner and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, center celebrates after his team won their Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket playoff match against Delhi Daredevils in Pune, India, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
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NEW DELHI (AP) — Bribery and molestation, star tantrums and rave parties, yet growing crowds — this year's Indian Premier League is proving there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Full stadiums have been a welcome sight after sparse attendance last year due to a post-World Cup hangover. Refreshed and ready for cricket, fans also have been digesting news of a string of off-field controversies.

Such off-field issues are nothing new for the IPL, whose founding chairman, Lalit Modi, remains in self-imposed exile after financial irregularities and whose governing council has had skirmishes with at least four of its own franchises.

Just as fans were raving about a number of close games, a TV sting operation showed IPL players agreeing to spot-fixing and raising murmurs about those close finishes possibly being contrived.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India was quick to provisionally suspend five players after they were shown by India TV news channel as either agreeing to spot-fixing or negotiating on their contracts, which is not allowed as per tournament rules.

T.P. Sudhindra, Shalabh Srivastava, Mohnish Mishra, Amit Yadav and Abhinav Bali were suspended and an inquiry ordered.

Sudhindra, who plays for Deccan Chargers, was shown allegedly agreeing to and then bowling a no-ball at a predetermined time in a local T20 game in the central Indian city of Indore.

The channel also played a purported telephone conversation with Srivastava of the Kings XI Punjab team agreeing to bowl a no-ball in the IPL. Srivastava, however, did not play in the tournament this season.

The others were seen talking about their IPL contracts and how under-the-table payments are used to entice players to franchises.

The expose gave sports minister Ajay Maken a chance to reiterate his call for the BCCI to be brought under India's Right to Information Act. Currently the BCCI is not accountable since it is not government funded.

"The BCCI performs a public function, that is the selection of the Indian team," Maken said. "This team plays under the aegis of the Indian flag. This is the Indian team. That is why the body that chooses the team needs to be transparent to the people."

The bribery allegations were followed by a string of off-field controversies that ended in police stations.

Kolkata Knight Riders team co-owner Shahrukh Khan was involved in a brawl with officials at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium. Mumbai Cricket Association and police officials alleged Khan confronted guards while under the influence of alcohol. The Bollywood star claimed he was not drunk and had only reacted to rude behavior by young fans.

Other more serious controversies were round the corner.

Australian batsman Luke Pomersbach made headlines without playing a game for Royal Challengers Bangalore this season.

He was arrested and subsequently released on bail for allegedly molesting a U.S. woman of Indian origin and assaulting her fiance at a New Delhi five-star hotel. Pomersbach was required to surrender his passport pending investigation of the case.

Indian cricket officials were quick to wash their hands off the incident, which is being investigated by police.

" It was an individual misbehavior of an individual player," IPL chief Rajiv Shukla told reporters. "It is a police case and we will wait for the police report."

Two Pune Warriors players, Rahul Sharma and South African Wayne Parnell, were also in hot water for attending a party that was busted for drugs. Their blood and urine samples were taken along with those of over 80 others after police found cocaine in the rave party.

Once again, IPL officials said they had no comment to offer pending investigation.

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