The International Cricket Council has begun investigating allegations that two Sri Lankans agreed to tamper with the pitch at Galle to change the outcome of a Test match against England later this year.
Sri Lanka cricket said it will fully co-operate with the ICC investigation.
“Sri Lanka Cricket wishes to state that it has zero tolerance towards corruption and will take immediate action against any person involved in the alleged incident, if found guilty,” SLC said in a statement.
The ICC said it took the allegations contained in an Al Jazeera documentary to be broadcast today (Sunday) very seriously and also wanted the Doha-based news network to share its evidence and supporting material with the investigators.
The London-based Daily Telegraph trailed the documentary with an extensive report detailing the two Sri Lankans and a former Indian player discussing how to rig the First Test between England and Sri Lanka in November.
“We have already launched an investigation working with anti-corruption colleagues from Member countries based on the limited information we have received,” the ICC said in a statement.
It said it made repeated requests that all evidence and supporting materials relating to corruption in cricket is released immediately to investigators to undertake a full and comprehensive investigation.
“Our Anti-Corruption Unit is committed to working to uphold integrity in cricket and would urge anyone with any information to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.”
An undercover journalist, posing as a businessman looking to place bets on the match, filmed a match fixer and the groundsman of the Galle International Stadium agreeing to help alter the outcome.
The “wicket fixing” plot involves doctoring the pitch to make it impossible for the contest to end in a draw. Such tactics would allow those involved to profit dishonestly from placing bets against that outcome with unsuspecting bookmakers.
The match-fixing allegations come from a documentary entitled Cricket’s Match-fixers, to be broadcast by Al Jazeera on Sunday night.
The Daily Telegraph said the film footage featured Robin Morris, a former professional cricketer from Mumbai, India, Tharindu Mendis, a professional player from Colombo, and Tharanga Indika, an assistant manager at Galle International Stadium.
They are shown discussing doctoring pitches during a meeting with the undercover reporter prior to the announcement of the date of the Sri Lanka Test at the Galle ground.
Asked when the next such fix would be carried out at there, Morris replies: “England v Sri Lanka. It’s in October, England v Sri Lanka.”
When the reporter says, “The next one he [Indika] will doctor the pitch for is Sri Lanka versus England?”, Mendis nods his head.
Asked if he could fix the surface for the England match so a draw would be impossible, Indika replies: “Yes, I can. I can confirm it in advance one week before.”
When the subject of ensuring the Sri Lanka v England Test would be finished inside four days is raised during a second meeting, Indika says, laughing: “I can do it in two-and-half.”
The reporter earlier asks Indika if he is confident he could keep knowledge of any pitch-doctoring within a small circle of people and prevent any leaks.
He replies “Yeah, sure”, adding that he trusted only “three or four” members of his 17-strong ground staff to help him.
Explaining how he could produce a surface that would make a draw all but impossible, he says: “We leave the wicket uncovered for about two weeks. Don’t water it and this will cause damage to the wicket.”
Mendis says other ways to fool pitch inspectors sent to every international match by the sport’s governing body, the International Cricket Council, include watering the pitch for half as long as necessary and using a special “brush” during the game itself.
Indika confirms he could produce a pitch to favour either bowlers or batsmen, saying: “Yes, if you want a pitch for spin bowling or pace bowling or batting, it can be done.”
Morris says Indika had already doctored the wicket for the most recent Test played at Galle in July between Sri Lanka and India.
Indika adds of the match, which the tourists won by 304 runs inside four days after posting a massive 610 runs in their first innings: “India was set for a batting wicket. Our guys didn’t play well.”
Doctoring a pitch in that way would allow a fixer to bet dishonestly on a team scoring unexpectedly heavily when batting first.
Gesturing towards Indika, Morris 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.”
Morris, who played 42 first-class matches for Mumbai and also represented Mumbai Champs in the Indian Cricket League – an unofficial forerunner of the lucrative Indian Premier League – adds that he spreads his bets to avoid arousing suspicion.
“We hit 10 bookies in one go,” he reveals.
He also claims doctoring a pitch to suit bowlers is safer than for batsmen as “batsmen can make mistakes”.
It has long been customary in cricket for pitches to be produced that favour the home team – sometimes controversially so – within guidelines laid down by the ICC.
But the claims that some are being doctored in order to fix the outcome of a match for the purposes of betting fraud will shock many in the game.
Ground staff at major venues are arguably more susceptible to bribery than top players because they earn far less, with Morris telling the documentary that fixers paid groundsmen 25 lakh Indian rupees (5.75 million Sri Lankan rupees) to doctor the pitch for one Test, the equivalent of eight years’ salary.
He also claims a previous Galle groundsman had even “got caught doing this”, without giving any more detail, the Telegraph reported.
The former curator of the Galle Stadium, Jayananda Warnaweera was slapped with a three=year ban by the ICC in January 2016 for failing to cooperate with an anti-corruption investigation.
Morris denies any wrongdoing. He says Al Jazeera invited him to audition for, and act in, a commercial movie “for public entertainment”.
Indika denies any involvement in pitch-fixing, saying any conversations he had with journalists were to show courtesy to foreign tourists. Mendis did not respond to requests for comment, the Telegraph said.