by Rex Clementine
Those of us who have followed Sri Lankan cricket closely had little idea how deep rooted corruption in the sport was when the International Cricket Council intensified investigations following the national cricket team’s shock defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe in 2017.
We put down the defeats to the glorious uncertainties of the great game rather than any sinister move by those involved in the game. Extensive investigations by the ICC’s Anti Corruption Unit have unearthed some startling revelations. Since then, former Test captain Sanath Jayasuriya has been banned for two years while Bowling Coach Nuwan Zoysa is provisionally suspended after being charged for trying to corrupt a player. A third – Dilhara Lokuhettige was also charged and suspended also for attempting to corrupt a player.
The ACU has not given a clean-chit to the fourth ODI between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe at Suriyawewa on the 8th of July 2017. Zimbabwe won that game on DL method but several questions remain unanswered.
The ICC over the last 18 months has spent more time investigating Sri Lankan cricket than any other member country.
More than the players, it is those who are connected to cricket said to be the bigger problem. All those who are charged or suspended so far are not current players. Well aware of the Anti Corruption Code, it appears that these individuals tend to use those who are not bound by Anti Corruption Code to lure players.
In certain cases, the ACU can only warn players about some of these corrupt elements rather than taking action against them. The reason being that the Anti Corruption Code doesn’t apply to them. This is where the government has to act. If laws are introduced to make match fixing or spot fixing criminal, the game will be safer as those trying to corrupt games will become aware that they are engaging in criminal activity.
The investigators have identified a lady from down south as the largest threat. They say that she has done more damage to Sri Lankan cricket than anyone else. This well connected lady is said to be working for a bookie in India and together with her local counterpart is believed to have dragged unsuspecting players into malpractices. She is believed to have had sexual relationships with close to a dozen Sri Lankan cricketers!
As the ICC announced an amnesty period for all stakeholders of the sport to report approaches to corrupt games that had been previously unreported, the image of this lady along with her local accomplice and the Indian bookie were circulated among players. This resulted in 11 people making use of the amnesty period to report incidents that they had previously not chosen to bring to the Anti Corruption officers’ notice. This provided important new leads to investigators.
Two ex-military officers have joined Sri Lanka Cricket to police local games. They are being trained by an ACU officer who has been stationed in Colombo for the last several months to help the country fight the scourge of corruption. There are hopes that these initiatives will help clean up the sport. With fans and sponsors turning away from the game given the recent developments, there’s an urgent need to introduce laws to tackle corruption. The ball is now on the government’s court.