The South African inquiry has lifted the lid on a multimillion-dollar betting racket that has offered large amounts of cash to players who'll ensure that a favored team will lose a game, or simply that those players will perform below par. Cronje, who claims to have been led into the scheme by "Satan," is unlikely ever again to don his country's cap, and he may well have helped end the careers of some of his most promising players. The financial scandal may in fact be a reflection of changes in the game over the past three decades during which it evolved into a multimillion-dollar industry, particularly the lucrative one-day form that evolved in ‘70s. "The endless round of one-day matches has taken its toll on the players who see pots of money coming in, but not too much reaching their pockets," says TIME New Delhi bureau chief Michael Fathers. Rather than being paid on a scale comparable with soccer players' wages, say (let alone the sums earned in most U.S. professional sports), cricketers are encouraged to seek sponsors and burnish their income with product endorsements. That has led a growing number of players to take money from bookmakers for predicting the outcome of matches, and in some cases for throwing the game.
But fears that the bribery scandal might kill the game may be overstated. The current inquiries are forcing the cricket authorities to clean house, and to warn players that taking bribes could end their careers. And the game's mysterious allure runs deep. "Cricket will survive," says Fathers. "For people who can appreciate a game that lasts five days and still ends in a draw, the fascination will always be there. Some cricket writers believe that's because the game is a metaphor for life, in which not everyone can be a winner but nor do they have to be losers they can live a decent life and come out with an honorable draw."