A Test match between India and Sri Lanka held in Galle in July 2017 might have been played on a pitch doctored at the behest of fixers, a sting operation by the Al Jazeera network has claimed.
The documentary titled Cricket’s match-fixers, which aired on Sunday (May 27) morning, shows Tharanga Indika, the Galle International Cricket Stadium’s assistant manager and curator, claiming to be able to prepare a pitch to suit the desired outcome, as per the instructions of Robin Morris, the former Mumbai and Odisha batsman.
The International Cricket Council said late on Sunday night that Al Jazeera wasn’t cooperating in the world body’s investigations, and urged ‘anyone with any information to contact us in strictest confidence’.
Alex Marshall, the general manager of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit, said in a release that a probe was underway to verify the claims of pitch-fixing.
“The ICC has now had the opportunity to view the documentary into corruption in cricket and as we have previously stated, we are taking the contents of the programme and the allegations it has made extremely seriously,” Marshall said. “A full investigation led by the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit, working with full cooperation from all Member countries identified in the programme, is now underway to examine each claim made.
“We have been in ongoing dialogue with the broadcaster which has refused our continual requests to cooperate and share information which has hampered our investigation to date. The content of the programme, is of course useful to the investigation, but I would now urge the production team to provide us with all un-edited and unseen evidence they are in possession of, to enable us to expedite a thorough investigation.
“Given this is a live investigation and one that is likely to be subject to the legal process, it is not possible to provide any further comment. Our Anti-Corruption Unit is committed to working to uphold integrity in cricket and would urge anyone with any information to contact us in strictest confidence via email@example.com.”
The match in question was the first Test between India and Sri Lanka in Galle from July 26 to 29, 2017, which the visitors won by 304 runs. India scored 600 in the first innings with Shikhar Dhawan making 190 and Cheteshwar Pujara 153.
In the second innings, India got to 240 for 3 declared with Virat Kohli scoring an unbeaten hundred. Sri Lanka could only muster 291 and 245 and were beaten inside four days.
“India was set for a batting wicket,” claimed Indika in the documentary. “We pressed the wicket thoroughly with a roller and then we put water on it to make it even harder.”
The sting operation also claimed that the pitch used for the 2016 Test in Galle, where Australia were bowled out for 106 and 183 to lose by 229 runs, was doctored. In that Test, 18 Australian wickets fell to spinners as the visitors failed to bat more than 85 overs across both innings. “In that five-day match, we prepared the wicket poorly without using a roller. In that way, we made a spinning wicket,” said Indika.
James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia CEO, responded by saying, “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.”
The CA release also added that “neither the ICC or Cricket Australia is aware of any credible evidence linking Australian players to corruption in the game.”
Morris, 41, who played 42 first-class matches, claimed that the next pitch-fix was likely to happen during England’s tour of Sri Lanka in November at the same venue. Morris gestures towards Indika in the documentary, and says, “If you want a pitch for spin bowling or pace bowling or batting, it can be done. What happens is he, we, can make a pitch to do whatever we want it to do. Because he’s the main curator. He is the assistant manager and curator of the Galle stadium,” the Al Jazeera website quotes Morris.
Morris, who also featured in the now defunct Indian Cricket League, allegedly told the undercover reporter that he would also provide him with leads to place bets.
BCCI assisting ICC probe
In a late evening communique, the Board of Control for Cricket in India said their Anti-Corruption Unit was assisting the ICC in the matter. “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 Indian Board said in a statement.
“The BCCI anti-corruption unit is working closely with the ICC anti-corruption on the alleged claims by a television channel.”