Sri Lanka’s sports minister Faiszer Musthapa has asked the country’s cricket board to hand over the inquiry into ‘pitch-fixing allegations’ to the law enforcement authorities.
The Sri Lankan Government and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) have been stung by fixing allegations made in Al Jazeera’s documentary ‘Cricket’s Match Fixers’. In an effort to restore their reputation, Sri Lanka’s sports minister Faiszer Musthapa has asked the country’s cricket board to hand over the inquiry to the law enforcement authorities. “I have watched the telecast of Al Jazeera’s documentary and written to Sri Lanka Cricket to inform the Criminal Investigation Department and take immediate action. I give assurance to the fans and cricket loving public that we will rid cricket and all other sports of corruption to make it conducive for every team to play here. We guarantee everyone a level playing field,” Musthapa told NDTV.
In his letter to the cricket board, the Sri Lankan sports minister wrote that he was saddened and dismayed by the Al Jazeera documentary.
His assurance comes after a report in a British tabloid said that a huge cloud of uncertainty hangs on England’s tour of Sri Lanka later this year. The bookies in the Al Jazeera sting were caught discussing plans to rig the first England vs Sri Lanka Test, scheduled to begin on November 6 by doctoring the pitch in a way that it’s difficult for the match to end in a draw.
Tharanga Indika, the Assistant Manager of Galle International stadium has been suspended as investigations continue. Sources within SLC told NDTV, “Tharanga was sacked on charges of corruption earlier but was brought back by the current administration in February 2016 despite allegations of corruption against him.”
He is said to have played a role in doctoring the pitch during the Australia vs Sri Lanka Test played between 4th and 8th August that ended in three days with Sri Lanka winning by 229 runs.
The rot runs deep with two former Sri Lankan players Jeewantha Kulatunga and Dilhara Lokuhettige also being involved in fixing matches in a T20 league in the UAE recently.
According to an SLC official, Kulatunga was a former women’s team coach but his contract was not extended. However, he was brought back by the Board as the men’s coach for the Western Province.
While Sri Lanka Cricket has promised to take immediate measures against errant curators and its players, no such commitment has been made to rid the Board of its corrupt officials or even inquire about charges against them.
The Assistant Secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket and a stalwart of the Panadura Sports Club, Ravin Wickramaratne is alleged to be the mastermind of a domestic match-fixing scandal that hit the headlines last year.
At the heart of it is an affidavit by former Test cricketer and Panadura SC captain Chamara Silva who revealed how the officials fixed the match to gain promotion to tier ‘A’ of the domestic tournament. Silva said he refused to play a role in fixing the match that was won by Panadura in bizarre circumstances. Despite this being one of Lankan Cricket’s worst kept secrets, neither the Sports Ministry nor the Board took any action.
Jayantha Dharmadasa, the former Vice President of Sri Lanka Cricket resigned from his post last year and in his letter of resignation spoke about the corruption within the set up of the country’s Board.
While the Al Jazeera sting does not seem to have had any impact on either England’s or Australia’s cricket boards for now, both having vociferously denied claims of their players being involved, in Sri Lanka, it is expected to have a domino effect.
It is now upto the Criminal Investigations Department to probe into the allegations of corruption and regain the trust of the biggest stake holders in the game — the fans.