15th April 2001
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Continuity of Sharjah cricket in the balance

Tournaments in the desert venue in doubt as ICC investigators arrive to probe corruption
Marlon Fernandopulle reporting from Sharjah
Two Senior Investigators of the ICC's Anti Corruption unit will arrive in Sharjah to pursue a number of ongoing inquiries linked to corruption of the game.

Senior Investigator Jeff Reeves and Support Manger Bob Smalley are expected in Sharjah where the ARY Gold Tournament involving Sri Lanka,Pakistan and Zew Zealand is currently on.

According to a press release from the ICC,the investigators will not focus on the current tournament or the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Cricket Board which runs the game. The ICC has not commented on who the Investigators plan to see or the nature of their inquiry. 

However the ICC is of the view that since there is a tournament being played at present it is useful and practical for members of the Anti Corruption Unit to be present.

Although CBFS' personal were not available for comment, it is certain that all top officials will be quizzed by the ICC Investigators who are expected to be in Sharjah for four days.

Most Test playing nations have viewed Sharjah as a hotbed for betting and match fixing.The ICC Anti Corruption Unit has already sought the assistance of Wisden the games almanac to acquire details of 53 games played in Sharjah which have already surfaced in the ongoing match fixing inquiries.

It was only last week that India pulled out of the Sharjah Triangular following ICC President Malcolm Gray's comments to the Indian Home Minister that he has grave doubts about the integrity of the one day toprnament in Sharjah. 

Following these comments from the ICC President India banned their players from playing in Sharjah.

India's withdrawl prompted CBFS Chief Coordinator Asif Iqbal to quit his post.

In a desperate bid to salvage future tournaments CBFS has already offered huge amounts of money amounting to over one million pounds to India and Pakistan for each tournament. However with growing speculation that Sharjah has been a breeding ground for betting and match fixing and the ICC Investigators hot on the heels of the CBFS the continuity of cricket in Sharjah is in the balance.

Murali to play for Lancashire 

Sri Lanka's ace off Spinner Muttaih Muralitharan has signed up with English Cricket County Lancashire for the forthcoming season.This will be the spinner's second stint with Lancashire after he made his county debut in the 1999 season.Although he played just six matches that year he captured a bag of 66 wickets.

Murali is expected to leave for England a day after arriving in Sri Lanka from Sharjah as the English county season begins in mid April.However the world class off spinner will return to Sri Lanka in mid July for the Triangular in Colombo between Sri Lanka,India and New Zealand which will be followed by the three tests against India. Murali signed his Lancashire contract this year on a condition that he will return to play for his country in July. The 29-year-old record breaking off spinner has already taken over 300 test wickets and over 200 one day wickets.

Speaking to the Sunday Times Murali said that he signed the contract with Lancashire earlier this year and is looking forward to playing there. "I enjoyed playing for Lancashire the last time and I am now eagerly looking forward for another good season with the county." Folowing his record 300 test wickets Muralitharan received a return air ticket to any destinantion from SriLankan Airlines recently. The spinner was quoted saying he would use the return air ticket to fly to London. -MF 

Cricket umpires under siege

By Bernie Wijesekera 
Before pointing a finger at others, put your own house in order. The recent happenings in the ongoing series between Sri Lanka and England raised many an eyebrow due to sub-standard umpiring be it neutral or otherwise - put the game to shame. Some of the decision made by the local umpires in the past has a special place in the local record books. If the game is to improve then the umpiring levels have to be improved. 

There are areas that need improvement besides grandiose projects. Priority should be to improve the quality of umpiring, which has hit a new low not only at international level, but in the local scene, too. In any form of democracy there should be an independent judiciary. The way the umpires were picked at the behest of interested parties has much to be desired. 

According to knowledgeable critics, who have played the game at the highest level, some of the decisions made by the umpires were blind decisions. Its better to lose in grace than in disgrace, he added. 

Umpires do make human errors, but its part and parcel of the game. Aussie skipper Alan Border said, there are good and bad decisions. But one must take in the correct spirit. If they are in doubt then they must make use of the electronic eye, which is available for them. Some of them were dubious decisions. 

The present Warden of S. Thomas', David Ponniah, has excelled in cricket at home and abroad said in an interview that the players must strive to maintain the spirit of the game rather than the final outcome. Players in some quarters are lacking this at present.

In Sri Lanka some of the officials must take part of the blame for interfering with the affairs of the umpires. Martin Crowe was given caught at forward short-leg off the ground. He was given out , but Crowe refused to walk out. After consulting the leg-umpire it was revoked and Crowe went on to make a stroke-filled 100. He was given a special award for not walking out by the hierarchy at a reception. The player concerned now living Down Under succumbed when his team mates, who howled - Alluwa Kiapan (Say you held). A local umpire has a special place in the recent book of Aussie skipper Steve Waugh. It was a bad decision, indeed. The players, too are to be blamed for this recurring episodes which has tarnished the country's image. Constant appealing, too put the umpires under pressure. Here the umpires at the middle have the right to warn them and bring it to the notice of the captain. Failing which the management must take action to nip it. But they have failed - be it the coach or the team manager. Thereby the players enjoy a "Carry on Series". If the umpires can't control the game then they should refrain from umpiring, a past Great said 

The present Minister of Sports Lakshman Kiriella, one time president of the ACUSL, has done much to improve the lot of the umpires off the field. This in turn helped the fraternity to live with dignity. But he told them that they should strive to uphold its traditions and act without fear or favour. I don't think they are cheating but must strive to maintain its dignity 

It did happen in the past, when the Pakistani team, was to return home midway of the tour. They were adament due to poor umpiring apparently aided and abetted by an official. According to an official who held office, it was the head of state who persuaded them to stay back. 

Hisham Abdeen to coach Ananda at rugby

Former Sri Lanka's international classed forward Hisham Abdeen who played with distinction for the country at home and abroad will be coaching Ananda rugby this season. Ananda has made a name at cricket producing some of the best at national level thanks to P.W. Perera, who handles the nursery todate. Perera despite years rolling by still continues to handle the juniors. 

Rugby, too has a tremendous impact among the youngsters. The future of Ananda rugby holds good with Abdeen being entrusted with the task of coaching them on a long term project. 

Hisham, when contacted by The Sunday Times confirmed it. An old Zahrian and Isipatanian. said he wants to help another school to come on par with other leading schools.

I can't deliver the goods overnight, but has to be planned for at least for two years. 

Talent has to be harnessed at grassroot levels. With the interest shown by the lads and the encouragement given by the old boys, nothing is impossible. 

At present he coaches his old club, the Havies, It has already borne fruit - winning three trophies for year 2001. As a schoolboy he played for the Park Club in 1979 and in 1980 whilst at school played for Sri Lanka in the int. rugby sevens. He enjoys a trail-blazing record as player and captain. BW


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