A Test match between Sri Lanka and India held last year in Galle may have been played on a pitch doctored at the behest of match-fixers, a sting operation has claimed. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has launched an investigation into the matter after came to light. The upcoming tour of England by Sri Lanka has also come under the radar with the sting suggesting pitch could be doctored for that series too. The corruptions allegations, which have been named in an Al Jazeera documentary to be aired on Sunday, has put the upcoming England tour’s to Sri Lanka starting October in jeopardy.
“The ICC is aware of an investigation into corruption in cricket by a news organisation and as you would expect we will take the contents of the programme and any allegations it may make very seriously,” ICC said in a statement on the website.
“We have already launched an investigation working with anti-corruption colleagues from Member countries based on the limited information we have received. We have made repeated requests that all evidence and supporting materials relating to corruption in cricket is released immediately to enable us to undertake a full and comprehensive investigation,” the international body added.
The documentary claims that a well-known former Mumbai first-class cricketer Robin Morris, who is now allegedly a match-fixer, admitted to involvement in bribing a groundsman at Galle last year to alter the pitch. The sting operation is to be aired on Sunday but snippets of it have already been posted online by the Qatar-based channel.
Sri Lanka Cricket, on its part, said it would cooperate with the ICC and reiterated its “zero tolerance” policy on corruption. “Ashley De Silva, CEO of Sri Lanka Cricket is in contact with the CEO of the International Cricket Council Mr. David Richardson…and will take immediate action against any person involved in the alleged incident, if found guilty,” the SLC issued a statement. “In the meantime, Sri Lanka Cricket is constantly engaged with the ICC and is following its guidelines on how to handle anti-corruption operations for the forthcoming tours in Sri Lanka.”
The match in question was the first Test between India and Sri Lanka at Galle from July 26-29.
“The groundsman, Tharanga Indika, assistant manager at the Galle stadium, says he can make pitches to favour either bowlers or batsmen. If you want a pitch for spin bowling or pace bowling or batting, it can be done,” Al Jazeera claimed on its website.
In the clipping, the 41-year-old Morris, who played 42 first-class matches but never for India, gestures towards Indika, and says: “What happens is he – we – can make a pitch to do whatever we want it to do.”
“Because he’s the main curator. He is the assistant manager and curator of the Galle stadium,” the website quotes Morris. The track in that match was a belter on which India won by 304 runs.
India scored 600 in the first innings with Shikhar Dhawan plundering 190 and Cheteshwar Pujara 153. In the second innings, India managed 240/3 declared with skipper Virat Kohli scoring an unbeaten hundred. Sri Lanka could only muster 291 and 245 in their two innings and were beaten comprehensively within four days.
Indika allegedly claimed to the website that he prepared the pitch for the batsmen. “India was set for a batting wicket. We pressed the wicket thoroughly with a roller and then we put water on it to make it even harder,” he has been quoted as saying in the video of the sting.
Pitch doctoring controversy is not new to Sri Lankan cricket. In early 2016, the ICC suspended the erstwhile Galle curator Jayananda Warnaweera for three years after he refused to co-operate with the Anti-Corruption Unit.
Warnaweera, on two separate occasions, had failed to attend scheduled interviews with the ACU in relation to a then ongoing investigation and failed to provide documents required from him in connection with the investigation.
The Australian newspaper reported that the documentary alleges spot-fixers bribed the groundsman at Galle to doctor the pitch used for the 2016 second Test between hosts Sri Lanka and Australia. The touring side were bowled out for 106 and 183 in the match and lost by 229 runs in less than three days.
(With inputs from PTI)