New Delhi: Icons faded into oblivion and the 'Gentleman's Game' was defiled beyond redemption as the match-fixing scandal shook the entire cricketing world in the year 2000. As more and more newsprint was consumed by the allegations of involvement of a host of top international players in match-fixing, the game lost its innocence, much to the chagrin of its large followers for whom cricket perhaps will never be the same again.April 7, 2000 proved to be epochal in cricketing history when Delhi Police came up with the sensational disclosure of the involvement of the then South African skipper Hansie Cronje and some of his teammates in match-fixing. The charges took the cricketing world by storm. First came the denials from the players and United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) and then Cronje's admission sent the entire cricketing fraternity into an uneasy silence. Ultimately Cronje was slapped with a life ban by the UCBSA.The 'Cronjegate' opened a Pandora's box in Indian cricket with names of top players flying thick and fast along with the slew of allegations coming from all sides.As the 'big fix' gradually unfolded, people watched cricketing icon Kapil Dev cry on the television screen while denying the allegations levelled by one-time new-ball partner Manoj Prabhakar.Eventually on the basis of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) slapped a life ban on Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma as well as a five-year ban on Ajay Jadeja and ironically Prabhakar, who first blew the whistle on the scandal in India.While deposing before CBI, Delhi-based bookie Mukesh Gupta (MK) roped in several foreign players like West Indian Brian Lara, Australians Mark Waugh and Dean Jones, Sri Lanka's Aravinda De Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga, New Zealander Martin Crowe, Alec Stewart of England and Salim Malik of Pakistan. The Cronje revelations prompted the International Cricket Council (ICC) to set up an anti-corruption unit, headed by former London Police Commissioner Paul Condon, who visited India along with some other members recently to take leads on the international players named for wrongdoings.As the game struggled to regain its glory after absorbing the shocking revelations, the unruffled Steve Waugh-led Australia are on the verge of signing off the year in style stamping their supremacy as the best test side with a world record 14 victories on the trot. The 16-year-old record of 11 consecutive Test wins of West Indies was eclipsed by the awesome Aussies with a victory by an innings and 27 runs in the second Test over the Caribbean side at Perth in the ongoing series. Australia have remained on the 'Waugh path' since lifting the World Cup last year in England with a facile win over Pakistan and emerged as the best side since the exploits of Clive Llyod's 'Demolition Squad'. The Indian team started the year with a whitewash Down Under and Test series loss on home soil to South Africa. Later a change of guard from Sachin Tendulkar to Saurav Ganguly gave only a flicker of hope with a One-day series win against the Proteas (though later tainted by the match-fixing scandal) and remarkable run in the ICC tournament in Kenya before the loss in the final to New Zealand. The side's performance hit a new low in Sharjah in October with a yawning loss to Sri Lanka in the triangular final by 245 runs, the biggest margin of defeat in One-day history, as India collapsed to a meagre total of 54 runs.The Indians would find it difficult to rid themselves of the 'desert nightmare' despite the win against Bangladesh in their inaugural Test in Dhaka and the victories over Zimbabwe in both versions of the game at home later. On the positive side, the India Under-19 team won the Youth World Cup. Bangladesh made their Test debut with Aminul Islam's 145 coming as the best maiden innings since Australia's Charles Bannerman made 165 not out against England in 1877. Pakistan's year ended on a downbeat with a surprise 0-1 Test series loss to touring English side, which showed signs of recovery after a long slump in recent times. Earlier, England beat West Indies at home to record their first Test series win against the Caribbeans in 31 years.The year also saw the demise of some veterans of the game. Independent India's first captain Lala Amarnath died at the age of 80 in New Delhi. West Indies left-hander Roy Fredericks (57) succumbed to cancer and towards the end England's Colin Cowdrey (67), considered the most graceful batsman of his generation, died of heart attack. He was the first to play 100 Tests and marked the occasion with a century.
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