COLOMBO: Sri Lankan authorities are investigating a bid to bribe members of the national cricket team to under-perform in a recent Test to ensure a surprise victory for the West Indies, the government said Friday.
Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera said a man linked to a bookmaker had offered wicketkeeper Kusal Perera and star bowler Rangana Herath tens of thousands of dollars to engineer a Sri Lankan batting collapse at a Test in Galle in October, which the hosts went on to win emphatically.
“They wanted Sri Lanka to get out early for a very low score. This is a match Sri Lanka was expected to win, but if they lost, the bookie would have made a lot of money,” Jayasekera told AFP.
The minister said some 10 million rupees (around $70,000) had been offered to the players to lose the match. Police had mounted a search for the suspect who was said to have approached the two players.
“After Kusal turned down the offer, the man approached Herath who also rejected the offer and alerted the authorities,” he said.
“We have started a police inquiry in addition to an anti-corruption probe by Sri Lanka Cricket,” Jayasekera added, in reference to the national cricket board.
Sri Lanka beat the tourists from the Caribbean by an innings and six runs after veteran left-arm spinner Herath took 10 wickets in the match on the country’s south coast.
The West Indies, who have never won a Test match in Sri Lanka and went on to lose the two-match series 2-0, were rank outsiders for the showdown in Galle where the home team have a particularly strong record.
Jayasekera also suggested that Perera’s recent failure in a doping test during the ongoing tour of New Zealand may have been linked to his raising the alarm over the match-fixing attempt.
“It is possible that something was slipped into his food or his urine sample was tampered with to get this result,” Jayasekera said of Perera, who was sent back to Sri Lanka after failing the doping test.
“We are doing our best to defend him,” the minister added.
Ashley de Silva, the chief executive of Sri Lanka Cricket, said the board could not discuss the case in line with International Cricket Council (ICC) anti-corruption regulations.
“Because of the anti-corruption regulations, we cannot say anything,” de Silva told AFP.
However a source on the board confirmed that the organisation was conducting its own investigation into the claims.
“The two players brought this to our notice,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Although betting is illegal in most of the cricket-mad Indian subcontinent, there is no shortage of backstreet bookmakers — many of whom have links to the underworld.
Ronnie Flanagan, who heads the ICC’s anti-corrruption unit, recently acknowledged match fixing would never be eradicated even though a string of international stars have been exposed as in the pay of bookmakers.
Although no big-name Sri Lankan player has ever been convicted of corruption, several former stars have made allegations of either match fixing or spot-fixing, when players deliberately bowl or field badly to give away a set number of runs.
Former skipper Hashan Tillakaratne dropped a bombshell in May 2011 when he claimed he had been an eye-witness to match-fixing by fellow players since 1992. Tillakaratne never disclosed any names.
Two Sri Lankan umpires were banned in 2013 after an Indian television station claimed they were willing to make favourable decisions during matches for cash.