In a shocking piece of revelation, Al Jazeera has claimed that last year’s Indian cricket team vs Sri Lanka Test at Galle and Australia-Sri Lanka Test at the same venue (2016) were fixed.
The investigations carried out by the Qatar-based media network revealed that criminals paid money to ground staff on both occasions to doctor pitches and guarantee outcomes. An effort has also been made to fix Sri Lanka-England Galle Test scheduled to be played in November this year.
The full details of the scandal will be revealed in a documentary titled ‘Cricket’s Match-Fixers’ that Al Jazeera will air on Sunday at 10 GMT.
Reacting to the allegations, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has said that it has already launched an investigation into Al Jazeera’s findings.
“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,” read an ICC statement on its 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.”
According to a report in The Australian, the Al Jazeera investigations used hidden cameras to film former Indian first-class player Robin Morris, Dubai-based Indian businessman Gaurav Rajkumar and the Galle stadium assistant manager, Tharanga Indika discussing ways in which they could make the fixing work. Sri Lankan first-class player Tharindu Mendis was another alleged accomplice who was filmed.
Talking to the channel’s undercover reporters, Morris admitted to have bribed the Galle groundsman to doctor pitches.
“We can make pitch do whatever we want,” he was quoted as saying by the Al Jazeera website.
Morris’ claims were backed by Galle stadium assistant manager Indika. “If you want a pitch for spin bowling or pace bowling or batting, it can be done,” he said.
Then, during a meeting at one of the hotels in Galle, Morris said gesturing towards Indika: “What happens is he – we – can make a pitch to do whatever we want it do to. Because he’s the main curator. He is the assistant manager and curator of the Galle stadium.”
While the pitch used for Sri Lanka-Australia Test was doctored to assist bowlers, the one featuring India and Sri Lanka was prepared to favour batsman.
A look at scorecards of these two matches reveal that things transpired in exactly the way the fixers would have wanted to.
In the Australia- Sri Lanka Test, spinners ruled the roost as the home side drubbed the visitors by 229 runs in only two and half days. While Sri Lanka scored 281 and 237 in their two innings, Australia could only muster 106 and 183 in their outings.
Talking about this match, the fixers claimed they had bet huge amount of money on the game not ending in a draw, and they got what they wanted.
“In that five-day match, we prepared the wicket poorly without using a roller. In that way we made a spinning wicket,” Indika said.
The second match in question, the India-Sri Lanka Test of 2017, saw huge first innings total of 600 put up by the visiting batsmen. India batted superbly in the second innings too and declared at 240/3. The home side, though, failed to capitalize on the batting friendly conditions and could only aggregate 291 and 245 from their two innings. India won the match by 304 runs.
Reacting on the outcome of this match, Indika said that he had instructions from the fixers to prepare a pitch for 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 said.