After a sting operation by a leading media channel claimed that India was a part of three Test matches with doctored pitch, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said that it would consider action against former Mumbai cricketer Robin Morris if found guilty in an ongoing ICC probe, media reports said.
The sting operation carried out by Al Jazeera alleged that the Test matches India was involved in pitch-fixing were against Sri Lanka (Galle, July, 2017), Australia (Ranchi, March, 2017) and England (Chennai, December, 2016). While the first and third Tests were won by India, the second one, against Australia, ended in a draw.
BCCI and Cricket Australia have decided to wait for ICC to conduct a full investigation before acting on sensational claims in the sting operation by Al Jazeera.
“The BCCI has a zero-tolerance approach to any activity or act that brings the game of cricket to disrepute or mars the integrity of the game. The BCCI anti-corruption unit is working closely with the ICC anti-corruption on the alleged claims by a television channel,” said the BCCI in a statement.
A senior office-bearer was quoted by PTI as saying, “We believe ICC has started its probe. Let them complete that and pronounce Morris guilty. The BCCI will only act when they have the verdict in hand. We need to check with our Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) whether Morris’ name was there on the suspect list. Secondly, he is not associated with any BCCI or state unit project currently from where we need to pull him out.”
“So the only thing left is BCCI domestic cricketers’ pension of Rs 22,500 (after deductions). If he is getting that pension, BCCI is well within its rights to cancel that but only after he has been proven guilty,” the official added.
The allegations suggest the pitch could have been doctored at the behest of fixers (India vs Sri Lanka), and involvement of some Australian and England players in spot-fixing the other two games. However, no Indian player’s name has cropped up in any wrongdoing except a former first-class player Morris.
In the documentary titled ‘Cricket’s Match Fixers’, Morris is seen introducing assistant manager at the Galle stadium Tharanga Indika to the undercover reporter and talking about getting pitches doctored. Morris, who quit cricket at 31, has been caught saying on camera that they have connections to fix pitches through groundsmen. He even told undercover reporters that he bribed the groundsman at Galle to doctor the pitch to ensure match-fixers large sums of money from betting.
Morris is seen explaining in the video, “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.” For the Australia match, Indika says he made a pitch for bowlers. In that five-day match, we prepared the wicket poorly without using a roller. In that way, we made a spinning wicket.”
An insider from Mumbai cricketing fraternity reacted on allegations on Morris and said, “Had his best days coincided with IPL, he would have been a good domestic pick. But he went to the rebel (and now defunct) Indian Cricket League just after taking 8 wickets for Mumbai in Irani Trophy.”
His friends reportedly started maintaining distance from him after a significant change in Morris’ lifestyle. He would be seen driving Mercedes Benz and wear expensive watches with trips to Dubai getting more frequent.
Since the controversy, Morris has deactivated his Facebook account and disconnected his mobile number. The ICC has launched an investigation into the matter.
In a statement released by Cricket Australia, CEO James Sutherland has said, “Together with the ICC, we are aware of the investigation by Al Jazeera into alleged corruption in cricket. Although not having been provided an opportunity to view the documentary or any raw footage, our long-standing position on these matters is that credible claims will be treated very seriously and fully investigated.”
“Cricket Australia will continue to fully co-operate with the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit in its review of the matter. Neither the ICC or Cricket Australia is aware of any credible evidence linking Australian players to corruption in the game. Cricket Australia and the ICC take a zero-tolerance approach against anyone trying to compromise the integrity of the game. We urge Al Jazeera to provide all un-edited materials and any other evidence to the ICC investigation team, so, if appropriate, a full and thorough investigation can be conducted.”
ECB Chief Executive Tom Harisson also dismissed the allegations surrounding the 2016 India-England Test in Chennai. “There is nothing we have seen that would make us doubt any of our players in any way whatsoever,” Harrison said in a ECB statement.
“The limited information we have been given has been discussed with all the England players. They emphatically deny the allegations, have stated categorically that the claims are false and they have our full support.”
Harisson expressed disappointment over the TV channel not co-operating enough. “Neither ECB nor the ICC is aware of any credible evidence connecting any England players to any form of corruption. ECB had been aware of the planned Al Jazeera documentary for some time but have not been given the full content.
“There have been repeated requests for any evidence and unedited materials to be shared with the ICC so they can fully investigate. We, like other member boards, are disappointed that Al Jazeera have not been more cooperative and responsible when making such serious allegations,” he added.