Sanath Jayasuriya in Sri Lanka fixing investigation net

Undergoing their worst times in cricket this century—they lie sixth in Test rankings, eighth in ODIs and ninth in T20Is—Sri Lanka suffered another blow when International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption panel charged one of their biggest cricketing icons, Sanath Jayasuriya of breaching the ICC’s code of conduct.

The accusations pertaining to Jayasuriya, a former skipper, an ex-Member of Parliament from his home-town Matara and chief selector, are two-fold. The first is his “failure to provide accurately and completely any information and/or documentation requested” by the anti-corruption unit with an ongoing investigation into alleged match-fixing in the country.

The second is him“concealing, tampering with or destroying any documentation or other information that may be relevant to that investigation and/or that may be evidence or may lead to the discovery of evidence of corrupt conduct”. He has, thus, breached article 2.4.6 and 2.4.7 of the ICC’s anti-corruption code of conduct.

The legendary cricketer, the British newspaper Daily Mail, alleges, “lied about the number of phones in his possession, before hiding one of his SIM cards and disposing of the handset” during the investigation. He didn’t hand over other electronic devices either when they approached him in the first week of October this year. BBC Sinhala, meanwhile, reported that Jayasuriya didn’t hand over the phone due to “personal reasons”.

Though the ICC was tight-lipped of the exact premise of the former World Cup winner’s code-violations, there are unverified reports that it related to the fourth ODI between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in Hambantota in July 2017. He was the chief selector—his second spell—during the series that Sri Lanka lost 3-2. The ICC officers suspected corruption and were probing the entire series.

What is verified, though, is that Alex Marshall, the ICC’s anti-corruption chief, was in Sri Lanka last month along with members of his team to “investigate into serious allegations of corruption in cricket in the country”. Besides the series, it’s believed that there are two other ongoing probes into possible corruption, the most rampant of them being pitch-fixing, which has morphed into a malaise in Sri Lanka cricket.

Pitch doctoring 

Last May, Al Jazeera, in their extensive investigative documentary on corruption in cricket, had alleged that the pitch for the first Test between Sri Lanka and India last year in Galle was doctored for bookies, besides forewarning the probability of pitch-fixing during the England-Sri Lanka Test at the same venue. The strip for the Test against Australia in 2016 was also suspectedly rigged.

Three years ago, former Galle curator Jayanta Warnaweera was suspended by the ICC for alleged non-cooperation during a pitch-fixing probe. Al Jazeera stung, among others, his successor and stadium manager Tharanga Indika too — he was caught on camera taking a bribe of $37,000. Incidentally, the ICC had then rubbished Al Jazeera’s claims and demanded them to produce “hard evidence”.

But the ICC, Marshall claimed, had already begun investigating possible corruption in the island. He had met the president, prime minister and sports minister and urged them to legislate against cricket corruption so as to cleanse the country of cricket-corruption. Just before the ongoing series between Sri Lanka and England, cricketers of both sides were given a briefing by the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, as they feared several players were approached by fixers in the past.

Jayasuriya, though, has yet to comment on the statement, while the ICC has given him a fortnight (starting from Monday) to respond. “The ICC will not make any further comment in respect of these charges at this stage,” the statement said. Jayasuriya can either plead guilty of the charges or defend his innocence. The former will mean that he will be suspended from occupying any post, in both SLC and ICC, for a maximum of five years.

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