Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage made several false claims to justify his allegation of a fixed 2011 World Cup final, investigations have revealed. This is a punishable offence under the recently enacted Prevention of Offences Related to Sports, as the Sunday Times first pointed out on June 21. The Sunday Times last week provided documentary evidence to [...]


Allegations, interrogations and boomerangs!


Aravinda de Silva, Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara gave statements while the case was called off before Mahela Jayawardene's turn - Pix by Sameera Weerasekara

Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage made several false claims to justify his allegation of a fixed 2011 World Cup final, investigations have revealed. This is a punishable offence under the recently enacted Prevention of Offences Related to Sports, as the Sunday Times first pointed out on June 21.

The Sunday Times last week provided documentary evidence to show the Minister was not being truthful when he claimed that neither the Sports Ministry, which he headed at the time, nor Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) was aware of last minute additions to the World Cup squad. On Friday, the International Cricket Council (ICC) rubbished his claims that he had lodged a formal complaint of a possible fix at the time to its Anti-Corruption Unit.

“There is no record of any letter regarding this matter sent by the then Sri Lanka Sports Minister to the ICC and senior ICC staff at the time have confirmed they have no recollection of receiving any such letter which would have led to an investigation,” Alex Marshall, the Unit’s head, said in a statement just hours after Sri Lanka’s Police Special Investigation Unit (SIU) on Sport-Related Corruption abruptly halted the inquiry. “We have no reason to doubt the integrity of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Final 2011,” Marshall asserted.

Seasoned politician Aluthgamage recently claimed Sri Lanka “sold” the 2011 World Cup final to India. It caused a local and international media frenzy. He based his claimed on a “suspicion” he had on the formation of the playing XI as well as 13 other turn of events before and during the match. He said he had proof but investigators here and abroad found nothing substantial to merit an investigation.

It remains unclear why Aluthgamage made statements that can now only be described as “irresponsible” or why he then distorted the facts to support his allegation. He said his Ministry had not approved the last-minute additions to the 2011 World Cup team. This was not true. A letter shows that the Ministry sanctioned the changes, as is mandatory under the Sports Law.

Following injury concerns to all-rounder Angelo Mathews and ace spinner Muttiah Muralidaran, the Aravinda de Silva-headed Selection Committee flew in veteran seamer Chaminda Vaas and spinner Suraj Randiv as possible replacements.

A letter written by then Board Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga addressed to Minister Aluthgamage on March 30 2011, shows that Selectors took the decision to include the two players “in consultation with the Team Management and Mr. Shabir Asgarally on a conference call as he is out of the country.” The Sports Ministry Secretary granted approval for the inclusion on the same day in order for the two players to travel to India and to join the team for practices.

Now, investigations have been stopped. It is time those falsely accused sue him for irreparable damage caused to their and the game’s reputation. And lawyers for the players and selectors said this week they are awaiting the ICC decision in writing to take any future course of action.

As the Sunday Times exclusively reported, the Minister can be charged for making false allegations under the Prevention of Offences Related to Sports Act. The law might have been initiated during his tenure but Aluthgamage wasn’t even present in Parliament last year – when it was eventually passed – to give his consent despite several attempts to include him in the quorum needed to see it through.

There is a cost to this farce. Not only to the former cricketers whose reputation took a severe beating owing to the seriousness of the allegation. The game also took a hit. Aluthgamage, meanwhile, was given preferential treatment. The investigators took his statement at his own home while the cricketers were summoned to the SIU at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium.

Cricketing legend Aravinda de Silva who headed the selection committee at that time was questioned for nearly six hours by police. Upul Tharanga, who opened batting with T.M. Dilshan, was next. Kumar Sangakkara, who had led the side, spent over nine hours with the investigators on Thursday. It was then Mahela Jayawardene’s turn to appear.

By then, however, pressure was mounting on the Government on both social media and political platforms to stop the “harassment” of cricketers. There was a protest on Thursday afternoon in front of Sri Lanka Cricket in support of the cricketers. Perhaps realising that pursuing the probe would affect the political campaign ahead of a crucial parliamentary election – given the stature of the targets – the Government might have decided to put an end to a wild goose chase that made Sri Lanka a laughing stock the cricketing world over.

Late Thursday night, police called off Jayawardena’s visit to the SIU and by Friday afternoon said there was no evidence to warrant further investigation. Thus ended two weeks of drama. A few hours later, the ICC also announced there was no evidence.

Sangakkara and Jayawardene have openly criticised the cricket establishment which is embroiled in corruption. De Silva has maintained a low profile, running his business interests and offering his services to cricket whenever he was called upon. Commentators on social media have linked the ordeal they endured to their role in forcing the Government to suspend the proposed multimillion dollar stadium in Homagama. Others thought the case was fabricated to prevent Sangakkara from being elected to high office in the ICC.

These conspiracy theories have no basis. Firstly, the match-fixing allegation did not emerge from the Board but from a Minister who was taking direct aim at the selectors. Secondly, Sangakkara isn’t eligible to contest ICC Board elections as he hasn’t met the mandatory condition of attending two ICC Board meetings.

“They need a public apology,” says Ana Punchihewa, the man who laid the foundation for Sri Lanka’s World Cup triumph in 1996. “These are ambassadors of our country and should not be treated this way. It was very badly handled. Imagine the mental trauma of being wrongly accusing of match-fixing. Match-fixing is a serious crime and one shouldn’t cast allegations without proof.”

18 June: Minister Aluthgamage shockingly alleges on TV that the 2011 World Cup final was fixed. There was a social media outrage with a number of former cricketers challenging the Minister to provide proof.

19 June: Sports Ministry Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra calls for an investigation.

24 June: Police SIU visit Aluthgamage’s home in Nawalapitiya to record his statement. Aluthgamage makes a u-turn. Says he only had suspicions.

30 June: Chief selector Aravinda de Silva is summoned to give a statement.

01 July: World Cup opener Upul Tharanga spends more than four hours recording his statement at Police SIU.

02 July: 2011 World Cup skipper Kumar Sangakkara spends more than 9 hours recording his statement at Police SIU. A protest is held in front of SLC against harassment of cricketers.

03 July: Centurion in the final, Mahela Jayawardene, who was summoned to record his statement is asked not to come. Police SIU concludes the investigation citing no evidence to back Aluthgamage’s claim. ICC says no doubt about the integrity of 2011 World Cup final. Also that it had not received any letter/complaint regarding the matter.

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