The Special Report

7th May 2000

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Bad batting or good betting?

By Leonard Ratnayake

Match-fixing is an open secret that most Sri Lankan cricketers and administrators are aware of. But it appears they do not want to talk about it openly because they fear any comment would rake up a major controversy.

The allegations about Sri Lankan cricketers throwing away matches have surfaced every now and then. But match-fixing never became an issue until the Hansie Cronje controversy shook the very foundation of international cricket.

In this backdrop, an article by the London-based Sunday Times which referred to Sri Lankan cricketers being approached by bookmakers has raised many eyebrows and questions.

The article, reproduced in the lcoal media, said Asanka Gurusinha, Roshan Mahanama and Sanath Jayasuriya had reportedly been offered money for information and match-forecasting, but the players had rejected the offers and sought police protection from an Indian book maker who approached them. The incident is reported to have taken place during a tour by Australia in August 1992.

The three Sri Lankan cricketers have dismissed the article saying the allegations were baseless. The Sunday Times learns that following the newspaper article Skipper Jayasuriya and Mahanama were summoned by the Sri Lankan Cricket Board to verify matters. Board officials had telephoned Gurusinha who is domiciled in Australia to get his version of the story.

Cricket Board Chief Executive Officer Dammika Ranatunge told The Sunday Times all three players had said there was no truth in the story. The board is reportetly seeking legal advice over the Sunday Times-London article becasue it has brought disrepute to the players and the board.

According to the article, the three players were approached by an Indian bookmaker and offered money for information and match forecasting. It said the players had rejected the offer, informed the local board and asked for police protection. But the article quoted a source who alleged that other Sri Lankan players had accepted the bookmakers' offer.

The article quoted the then cricket board president Tyronne Fernando as saying that the allegation had not been taken very seriously. Mr. Fernando was quoted as saying: "It was a different time. Such things were new to us and it was a period when the national team was busy playing a lot of cricket. In hindsight we should have taken the matter more seriously."

Mr. Fernando said the Board which was aware of the matter decided to end the matter then and there and not to disturb the team which was just building up.

The article also quoted former Sri Lankan batting star Sidath Wetttamuny as saying that three players had been approached with Roshan being one of them. He had apparently spoken to Sidath about the matter.

At a time the alleged incidet took place, none of these three players was an established member of the team.

In the wake of the controversy, Mahanama told the media he was surprised to hear about the article. He denied that any bookmaker had approached him during the 1992 matches. He also denied what the article had said quoting Wettamuny.

Jayasuriya also said there was no truth in the article. He said he was not even a member of the final eleven for that particular match.

Meanwhile Cricket Board officials say they had verified matters with the players concerned and were satisfied with the inquiries.

Interim Committee Chairman Rienzie Wijetillake told The Sunday Times no further inquiries were necessary.

But the end of this inquiry does not necessarily mean the end of match-fixing, or match-fixing allegations.

Our sister paper, Daily Mirror in February carried a story about match-fixing attempt at local club level. The headlined screamed "Bribe Offer: No-Balled Club captain allegedly offered Rs. 50,000 to two players to throw away premier league match.'

The offer, it was alleged, had been made on the final day and the two rival players had rejected the deal outright. The money was promised to be delivered the following morning at their respective homes. Although the alleged incident was reported, no inquiry was launched by the Cricket Board.

The situation is further compounded by an imposition of a don't-talk-to-media rule on cricketers. Uner the circumstances, the media and the people have no option but to believe rumours and speculations.

Cricket commentator and former manager Ranjith Fernando said he believed the cricket administrators should consult the experts to introduce measures to prevent corrupt activities from taking place.


Howzat?

Following are some of the matches over which suspicion has been cast

* The test match against Australia in August 1992 where Sri Lanka lost by 14 runs to prompt the rival captain Alan Border to say it was a miracle.

* The 1994 tour to India where Sri Lanka lost all three test matches by innings. The performances of the players on tour had been questioned by the team management.

* Sri Lanka playing a Quadrangular one-day tournament in Kenya had a good chance of entering the final but lost to Pakistan by 82 runs. Requiring only 290 runs to enter the Sameer Cup final after conceding a massive 371 in 50 overs to Pakistan, the Sri Lankans fell short by just one run and tumbled out to allow South Africa and Pakistan to contest the final.

* In the triangular tournament final in Singapore, where Sri Lanka and Pakistan met in the final, Sri Lanka lost the match by 43 runs. Chasing a target of 216 runs to win Sri Lanka was all out for 172 runs in a dramatic collapse after opener Sanath Jayasuriya made a dashing 76 runs off 28 balls to give Sri Lanka a first wicket stand of 70 runs in the eighth over.

* There are also speculations over Sri Lanka's humiliating defeat at theWorld Cup 1999 tournament.


Kapil serves notice on Bindra

NEW DELHI: Indian team coach Kapil Dev has served a legal notice on former cricket board chief Inderjit Singh Bindra for his claim in a TV interview that all rounder Manoj Prabhakar was offered a bribe by him (Kapil Dev) for underperforming in a match as part of match-fixing.

A legal notice has been sent to Bindra by my lawyers and the ball is in his court, Kapil said in a statement. He said Bindra's statement has been "an earth shattering experience" for him.

"I am going through an emotional hell. I haven't even thought of the financial consequences to my reputation. All that I can say is that the loss to me both emotionally and financially would be incalculable."

Never met Cronje: Chawla

Sanjiv Chawla, accused of match-fixing, has denied having ever met sacked South African skipper Hansie Cronje or having given any money to him. He told a British tabloid: "I am innocent and have done absolutely nothing wrong and I am being chased and hassled for nothing. My whole life is being ruined but I am sure I will be able to prove my innocence eventually."

Kishan taken to Mumbai

Kishan Kumar was flown in to Mumbai under police escort on Thursday evening to help in investigations by Delhi Police into the match-fixing scandal. Police were not willing to reveal where he was taken from the airport. Sources said police will use Kishan to track down Mumbai bookies Yasin and Jaggi.(Agencies) - The Times of India


Dice behind suicide

By Bernie Wijesekera

With the malignant cancer of match-fixing killing the spirit of a gentlemen's game, attention is focused on a 1992 Test match where Sri Lanka crashed to defeat in the last session after dominating the game for four days raising questions now whether it was just bad batting or also some good betting.

After Sri Lanka thrashed the Australians for 547 runs with debutant Romesh Kaluwitharana roaring to stardom, the visitors crumbled to leave Sri Lanka with a modest target of 181 for victory.

By afternoon Sri Lanka were cruising at 127 for two with top stars Aravinda de Silva and Asanka Gurusinha at the crease.

The avid fans thronged in their numbers occupying every vantage point to witness Lanka's first historic win over the Kangaroos, who were made to hop during the entire duration in this test. Then disaster struck. Sri Lanka lost their last eight wickets for just 39 runs.

According to experts the game was played on a perfect test pitch at the SSC and the bat had dominated for four and half days suggesting something more than Shane Warne's googlies might have precipitated the wholesale collapse.

It was sad and dark evening with thousands of fans going home with their heads down and probably some bookmaker having all his tails up.

It was unbelievable. Only the insiders will know how and why this suicide took place.


Behave or face ban

After a two-day emergency meeting of the ICC at Lords, where 18 delegates met from 12 ICC cricket countries, the world's governing body announced stringent new measures designed to root out the problem of match-fixing and implemented an independent Anti-Corruption Investigation to report to the Code of Conduct Commission.

The ICC in January last year set up a Code of Conduct Commission to deal with allegations of match-fixing. The commission does not conduct investigations but has empowered Cricket boards to do so and report back to the ICC.

It has also ordered all international players, umpires and officials to sign a declaration stating whether they have ever been approached by interested parties to fix matches or any other corrupt activity.

ICC executive director David Richards said any person who had played international cricket and was still available for selection would be asked to sign the declaration. Mr. Richards, who had floated the idea of an amnesty for players coming forward with hard evidence of corruption said the ICC had ruled out the suggestion.

"An amnesty would be inappropriate," he said.

But perhaps the most radical step the ICC has taken is the threat of suspension to all member countries if they failed to co-operate fully with the Code of Conduct Commission.

The ICC has given a clear warning to Pakistan's Cricket Board, who has been given just five weeks until the ICC's annual meeting at Lord's on June 20-21 to produce the findings of Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyam's inquiry which has been gathering dust since its completion in October.

"We've said as a board that we believe that 99% of the people involved in the sport are decent and honest men and women, but there might just be someone out there we don't know about that needs to come to the surface," said chief executive Mr. Richards.

The ICC have also, for the first time, produced a definition of "unacceptable behaviour", which stretches back retrospectively to 1993, and would have resulted in both Mark Waugh and Shane Warne facing a two-year ban had they not already been fined by the Australian Cricket Board for providing information to a bookmaker.

Former South African captain Hansie Cronje, who has also admitted receiving money for providing information to a "businessman", is facing a two-year suspension and could face anything up to a life ban if any further evidence is revealed during the forthcoming government inquiry into the scandal.

Any further prosecutions, though, will depend very much on the ICC receiving hard evidence - something which has been in short supply until now - and they are banking on the declarations and the all-encompassing partnership between the Code of Commission and the anti-corruption investigation improving that situation.

Forced to take action after South Africa captain Hansie Cronje admitted last month to taking money from a bookmaker, the 18 delegates resolved unanimously to introduce bans for players involved in match-fixing or betting.

Any individual contriving or attempting to contrive the result of a match will be banned for life, as will any player failing to perform on his merits or inducing another player to under-perform due to a betting arrangement.

Players who receive money for providing information about the weather, teams or state of the pitch to anybody other than the media will be banned for a period up to five years.


Cricket ugly cricket

The present saga surrounding match-fixing came to light when Delhi Police in India alleged and revealed a transcription of a tapped conversation between disgraced South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje and Sanjeev Chawla, a London-based Indian businessman to throw a match during their recent tour to India.

In the break out of the sensational allegations, Cronje and the United Cricket Board of South Africa came out with a stout denial.

However a confession by Cronje on April 11 settled the issue, when he admitted to have accepted money from a bookie for information.

Adding salt to the wounds in match-fixing saga surrounding Cronje, former South African wicketkeeper Dave Richardson alleged in the latest revelations that the same kind of incident had happened during their tour of India in 1996, where Cronje the captain of the team had brought a proposal to fix a beneficiary match at 250,000 US Dollars in three team meetings at Bombay Taj Hotel.

They were to lose the match by a margin of 70-90 runs. Andrew Hudson, Dave Richardson, Jonty Rhodes and Brian Mcmillan had opposed it from the first meeting and at the third after a strong opposition they have dismissed the offer. However they lost the match to India by 83 runs after Indians made 267 runs.

Later revelations by former South African coach Bob Woolmer said that Cronje had consulted him about the offer and had told Cronje not to accept it.

On another front South Africa's planned probe into "Hansiegate" has been seriously stalled between government departments with no sign of the name of the judge who will handle the commission of inquiry.

It also appears there are hopes that the New Delhi police are going to shed more light on the Cronje match-fixing claims by releasing another transcript of the tapes.

The stories about betting, providing match information and match-fixing saga started when Australian Tim May and team-mates Shane Warne and Mark Waugh accused former Pakistan captain Salim Malik of offering them money to play badly during the 1994 Test series.

Subsequently a Pakistan commission of inquiry investigating into the match-fixing allegations conducted a hearing in Melbourne a month later, where Warne, Waugh and May gave evidence. In that investigation Malik Mohammed Quayyum, the Head of the Commission of Inquiry has said on Monday in Lahore, that after 2 years of investigations and with 75 evidences he had recommended life ban from the game to some of the players involved in match-fixing in his report to the PCB president Rafik Tarar, but unfortunately some of them are still playing. In the latest developments the ICC which sat this week had ordered that a report on the incident should reach them within five weeks.

In 1997, former Indian Test player Manoj Prabhakar went public with a sensational allegations that during that same tournament in Sri Lanka in 1994, a team-mate had offered him money to throw a match. Then a similar inquiry was instituted in India by the Board of control for cricket in India. In the wake of Prabhakar's allegations and a growing demand for action, the Board appointed Justice YV Chandrachud to conduct an inquiry. He concluded however that the allegations were "imaginary and unrealistic".

But in the latest turn of events former Indian cricket chief Inderjit Singh Bindra told CNN that Manoj Prabhakar had named Kapil as the team-mate who offered him a bribe to play badly. Kapil Dev came down heavily on suggestions that he was involved in match-fixing, saying it was a "joke that had gone too far". He has filed legal action on Friday.

Then in December 1998, Warne and Waugh admitted in public that the Ausralian Cricket Board had fined them in early 1995 for dealing with a mysterious bookmaker known only as "John" during the 1994 tour of Sri Lanka.

Wisden Editor Matthew Engel has said cricket's current betting scandal can be linked to the lack of official action over Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee's infamous bet in 1981. The pair had bet on England to beat Australia in the third Test at Headingly and while there was no claim they had thrown the match. England said the ICC's failure to act then in coming back to haunt to it.

In a popular cricket programme in Skysports "Extra Cover" the big names in cricket have cast doubts about the recent trend of match-fixing in what they considered as gentlemen game. England Coach David Lloyd has said during the final of the Sharjah Champions trophy between his team and South Africa in 1998, he had observed shady characters moving around the dressing room with mobile phones.

The same programme carried the great English cricket captain Ian Botham saying that these people should be sacked from the game in order to preserve it.

There was also concern in the cricketing world as Tim May, chief executive of the Australian cricketers' association said the Cronje affair was proof the ICC was guilty of failing to clean up the game. May said it was now time for an independent, world-wide inquiry.

Further match-fixing revelations said to involve the results of two World Cup matches in England last year are to be investigated by the International Cricket Council as part of their global probe into gambling abuses of the game.

The United Cricket Board managing director Dr. Ali Bacher confirmed he had been made aware, during his international travels during the past three years, of the practice of match-fixing. His informants, he said were "former international players of integrity" but did not give any names.

"If you add this to the revelations now emerging in South Africa, I am as confident as one can be that match-fixing and match manipulation have taken place in world cricket," he said.

Although Dr Bacher did not provide specific examples, there are suspicions that when Bangladesh beat Pakistan, who had already qualified for the Super Sixes, at Wantage Road in Northampton almost 11 months ago that something unsavory had taken place. The rumour mill, fuelled by speculation in the Australian press, suggest a second match was involved but sources say it does not affect Australia, India or South Africa.

Also joining the list was Chris Lewis of England, who alleged he was approached by a betting syndicate to rope in Alec Stewart and Alan Mullally to throw a match. Lewis further alleged that a businessman who had approached him with the offer had further said that three "household names" had already taken money to throw games.

The English cricket authorities conducted investigations which drew a blank because of insufficient information.

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