April 30, 2000

Sri Lankan players approached by bookmakers - Newspaper

The international match-fixing furore looks set to finally envelop Sri Lankan cricket after a deafening silence during the last few weeks. This morning a prominent and respected British newspaper, the Sunday Times, revealed that three Sri Lankan players were approached by Indian bookmakers during 1992 Australian tour of Sri Lanka.

According to the paper, Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinha and Sanath Jayasuriya were all approached and offered money for information and match forecasting. The three prominent players refused to co-operate but it is alleged that other Sri Lankan players did accept the bookmakers money.

The three players contacted the BCCSL after the incident and asked the board for police protection.

BCCSL officials have confirmed that bookmakers did approach some of the players. Siddath Wettimuny, who will be representing Sri Lanka at the emergency ICC meeting in London, said to the Sunday Times on Saturday: "Three of the players were approached and Roshan was one of them. He came to speak to me about it."

Tyrone Fernando, who was then the Board's President, has admitted that the concerns of the three players were not treated with due seriousness.

"It was a different time, such things were new to us then and it was a time when the national side was busy playing a lot of cricket. In hindsight we should have taken the matter more seriously."

The allegations date back to the Sri Lanka's dramatic defeat by Australia during the first test match of 1992 tour by the Australians. During the match, which was held at the SSC, Sri Lanka claimed a first innings lead of 291 after scoring 547 in their first innings and looked certain of victory when they reached 127 for two chasing 181 in the final innings. However they collapsed in dramatic fashion, eventually losing the match by just 16 runs.

Dean Jones, an Australian player during the test, commented: "As far as I am concerned the collapse started from the moment that Aravinda De Silva charged Craig McDermott and was caught. He was in such good form that he could do anything."

An insider has told the Sunday Times that he believes that shortly before or during the test the bookmaker approached the three players in the `Chinese Great Wall' in Colombo. Members of the Australian touring party were also entertained at the restaurant during the tour.

Not only Sri Lankan players were approached during the tour. Dean Jones has confirmed that he was offered US$50,000 in a `biscuit tin' to help with forecasting during that 1992 series.

Early in 1994, the BCCSL ordered an inquiry into Sri Lanka's disastrous tour of India. The report said: "There is evidence that a bookmaker of Indian origin has attempted to make his presence felt in the national cricket scene. The subject of gambling with the toss had been a part of discussions at one of the team meetings on the tour. There is however, no further evidence available in the field."

The revelations by the Sunday Times are expected to be followed in the next few weeks by further allegations and evidence on match fixing within Sri Lankan cricket.