Lessons for the Sri Lanka Premier League
The spot-fixing scandal in the IPL has brought into focus the vulnerability of other domestic Twenty20 leagues, like the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), to corruption. It has also emphasised the need for effective anti-corruption measures and education. Last year's inaugural SLPL was seemingly well-equipped to deal with the threat of corruption, but when allegations surfaced that a fix was in the works, the SLPL's response was muddled, and concrete results from the ensuing investigation were never announced.
The allegations surfaced before the tournament had even begun, when an unnamed source purported to be close to the tournament's operations handed over a taped conversation to a local newspaper in the week before the opening ceremony. The conversation, said to be almost entirely in Hindi, allegedly had a franchise owner speaking about fixing matches in the tournament. After having the tape translated, staff at the newspaper were unwilling to publish the story, and instead handed over the tape to Sri Lanka Cricket.
On receiving the tape, SLC issued a release stating they had passed it on to officers of the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU), who were in Sri Lanka to oversee the tournament. The release said an investigation was underway, but it was not immediately clear which body would conduct it.
Upali Dharmadasa, who was the SLC president at the time, was adamant the ACSU officers were conducting the investigation. The ICC, however, asserted that because a domestic tournament was the subject of the alleged corruption, the home board would carry out the investigation, with the ACSU involved insofar as SLC deemed fit. Confusion ruled the reactions from officials, and reassurances that the truth about the tape would be uncovered seemed hollow as a result.
Eventually, the tournament overcame the pall of corruption that clouded its beginning and the team that was supposedly embroiled in the affair performed surprisingly well, given their talent pool. The tape was not officially mentioned either by SLC or the ICC again, but SLPL tournament director, Ajit Jayasekara told ESPNcricinfo that the whole incident effectively amounted to a hoax.
"The SLC anti-corruption people conducted their investigation in coordination with the ICC unit, and they found that the tape wasn't an authentic one. Everything was done properly," he said on Saturday.
According to Jayasekara, SLC were satisfied with the anti-corruption measures in last year's tournament, and will not alter its arrangements for the 2013 tournament. "The ICC anti-corruption unit briefed all the players and officials before the tournament, and our anti-corruption unit was constantly involved as well," he said.
Given the ACSU's official involvement and the fact that the SLPL operates in a minuscule market compared to the IPL, it would appear the tournament is less susceptible to fixing. However, although the SLPL's anti-corruption measures are effectively identical to those adopted in international cricket, a fixing allegation revealed weaknesses in the authorities' response, and failed to reassure fans that the league was safe from corruption.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here