Lankan players’ names crop up in match-fixing row

London/Colombo: Match-fixing scandal that has cast its shadow over the Pakistan cricket team moved to Sri Lanka today with reports that its top batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan and fast bowler Dilhara Fernando had been investigated by the ICC’s Anti-corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).

Dilshan, who has played 63 Tests and 188 ODIs for the island nation, had been monitored by the ACSU for alleged links with a bookmaker, London’s ‘Daily Mail’ claimed on Friday.

With regard to Fernando, a Sri Lankan newspaper ‘The Island’ alleged that he had been under ICC investigation for almost two years now.

However, the Sri Lankan Board stoutly denied involvement of its players in match-fixing, saying the charges against Dilshan were “character assassination”, while insisting that
Fernando had voluntarily disclosed an approach by the bookies to the ICC.

The ‘Daily Mail’ had claimed that Dilshan was the player named in a Sri Lanka Cricket report to ICC’s ACSU last year after he was allegedly spotted with a suspected illegal bookmaker in a London nightclub.

But the SLC rejected the report with spokesman Brian Thomas saying in Colombo that there were no allegations against Dilshan.

“A far as we are concerned, there is no allegations against Dilshan. If there were allegations, by now the ICC would have informed us and a proper inquiry would have been held. As far as Sri Lanka Cricket is concerned, can I call it character assassination. We know our players are innocent,” Thomas said.

Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara also jumped to Dilshan’s defence and said none of his team-mates were suspected of “fraternising with shady characters”.

“All these stories going around about Dilshan are absolutely baseless. No Sri Lankan player to my knowledge is in suspicion of fraternising with these so called bookies by their team-mates nor by team management and Sri Lanka Cricket Board. As far as I know there was no report to SLC or ICC’s Anti-corruption Unit,” Sangakkara said.

‘Daily Mail’ had reported that Sri Lankan team manager filed a report to ICC’s ACSU after Sangakkara informed him about suspicions among team-mates that Dilshan had been seen with the bookie during the Twenty20 World Cup in England in June last year.

Sangakkara refuted it and said he had never passed any such information to the management.

“I have never reported against any player specifically. All the players are very open in communicating with me and team management. No one including me have voiced our suspicion over any of our team-mates at any time nor reported specifically to the team manager or SLC,” he asserted.

“If there is any report of any suspicion on any player, then it is better to ask the SLC and the team management about that but as far as I know ,there is no such thing,” Sangakkara said.

Sangakkara also ruled out any Sri Lankan player intentionally mixing up with illegal bookmakers.

“Any of the players upto my knowledge have not fraternised with any of these shady characters. The only thing is you never know who is sitting at the chair next to you or who is taking photograph with you at a hotel or somewhere,” he said.

SLC Chief Executive Ajith Jayasekara also dismissed reports of Dilshan being under the ICC scanner.

“We don’t go by speculation or what any newspaper wants to say. We don’t want to go by such reports. The Anti corruption Unit of the ICC has not reported any such involvement of any player. We cant go by speculation. This has not been brought to our notice by the anti-corruption unit of the ICC. There is no evidence against any Sri Lankan player,” Jayasekara told reporters.

On Fernando, the SLC said the pacer was subjected to a “regulation interview” when he voluntarily disclosed the approach by an alleged bookie to the ICC officials, who came here to gather information about the Lahore terror attack on Sri Lankan players last year.

“The ICC ACSU has not brought such an issue to attention of SLC and it is unfair that such accusations are directed at our players without verifying the facts. In May 2009, the ICC’s ACSU travelled to Sri Lanka to interview Sri Lanka’s cricketers with regard to the Lahore terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus,” an SLC statement said.

“During their visit to Sri Lanka, Dilhara Fernando voluntarily reported a suspicious approach to the team management and it was immediately referred to the ICC ACSU who in turned carried out a regulation interview with Dilhara,” it added.

“The interviewing of players after the reporting of suspicious approaches is standard practice and above-mentioned cricketer followed the correct protocol. The ACSU then followed normal protocol and launched an investigation.”