ICC says Al Jazeera's allegations 'implausible', concludes investigation

ACU clears five participants due to "insufficient evidence"

Nagraj Gollapudi
The ICC has concluded a three-year long investigation into allegations aired on a TV documentary in 2018 linking England and Australia players being involved in spot-fixing in two Test matches in India, in 2016 and 2017, calling them "implausible". The ICC's anti-corruption unit (ACU) has also cleared five individuals, including two former cricketers, of any charges due to "insufficient evidence".
In 2018, TV channel Al Jazeera released two documentaries titled Cricket's Match Fixers, which portrayed various forms of corruption in cricket. In the first part, released in May 2018, the channel alleged that during parts of the Chennai Test between India and England in 2016 and the India-Australia Test the following year in Ranchi, some England and Australian batsmen scored at a rate specified by fixers for the purposes of betting.
In October 2018, Al Jazeera released the second part of the documentary, which alleged 15 international matches in the 2011-12 period had been subject to spot-fixing. Of the 15 matches Al Jazeera claimed were subject to spot-fix attempts in the 2011-12 period, seven involved England, five Australia, and three Pakistan. Among the matches mentioned were all three Tests of Pakistan's series against England in the UAE in early 2012.
On both occasions, the ICC had sought access to all the evidence including "unedited and uncut" versions of the film recording.
The central character in both parts of the documentary is a person identified as Aneel Munawar, an Indian national who is said to work for crime syndicate D Company. In the first part, Munawar is seen naming three England and two Australian players to an undercover reporter as being part of the fix. The instruction, the channel claimed, was for the batsmen to score slowly so that the actual runs scored would be lower than what the illegal betting market was placing bets on. The channel claimed Munawar's information on run-scoring during the certain passage of play in both matches was accurate.
However, the ICC disagreed. "The programme alleged that two matches were fixed: India vs England in Chennai in 2016 and India vs Australia in Ranchi in 2017," the ICC said in a media release on Monday. "To assess whether the passages of play highlighted in the programme were unusual in any way, the ICC engaged four independent betting and cricketing specialists to analyse the claims. All four concluded that the passages of play identified in the programme as being allegedly fixed were entirely predictable, and therefore implausible as a fix."
The ICC said its ACU had conducted a "comprehensive" investigation "focused" on three main areas: the claims made by the programme, the suspects who were part of it, and how the programme gathered evidence.
Alex Marshall, the ACU's general manager, said that there were "fundamental weaknesses" in each of the areas of the Al Jazeera allegations. Consequently, all the five participants named in both parts of the documentary were not charged because of "insufficient evidence based on the normal thresholds" under the ACU code to lay any charges.
Among the five participants were former Sri Lanka allrounder Dilhara Lokuhettige and former Pakistan batsman Hasan Raza. The other three participants were Jeevantha Kulatunga and Thanridnu Mendis (both provincial coaches employed by Sri Lanka Cricket) and Indika Tharanga, an assistant manager at Galle International Stadium.
"We welcome the reporting of alleged corrupt activity within cricket as there is no place for such conduct in our sport, but we also need to be satisfied there is sufficient evidence to sustain charges against participants," Marshall said. "In the case of the claims aired in this programme, there are fundamental weaknesses in each of the areas we have investigated that make the claims unlikely and lacking in credibility, a viewpoint that has been corroborated by four independent experts.
"On the basis of the programme, the participants to the code who were filmed appear to have behaved in a questionable manner, however, we have been unable to assess the full context of the conversations that took place beyond what was seen on screen versus what the participants claim actually happened. This combined with the absence of any other credible evidence means there are insufficient grounds to bring charges under the ICC Anti-Corruption Code.
"Should any new substantial evidence come to light, I will re-examine the case. But at present I am comfortable with the conclusion of the investigation and the thoroughness with which it was undertaken."
ICC report a 'whitewash', says Al Jazeera
* "We stand by our investigation and see this report as whitewash," Al Jazeera said in its response to the ICC report, also hinting at possible "conflict of interest" on the part of the global governing body of cricket.
In a series of tweets on May 18, Al Jazeera said, "The @ICC says it carried out a 'comprehensive' investigation but was unable to pursue it beyond what was seen on screen. Some players we exposed have since been banned for corruption. Why did the ICC ignore this? We stand by our investigation and see this report as a whitewash.
"The I-Unit refused to hand over any extra evidence to ICC over integrity concerns revealed in our film. Instead, we handed a dossier on match-fixer Munawar to @metpoliceuk who passed it to @Interpol.
"When the governing body of a sport - which earns billions - takes responsibility for investigating its own misdeeds, then questions of a clear conflict of interest are apparent.
"The ICC knew about Munawar as long ago as 2010, but failed to take action.
"The @ICC says that a person in our film 'claimed' he could arrange fixes. But our second powerful exposé, The Munawar Files, which the ICC did not even address, establishes beyond doubt that Munawar is a significant figure in the fixing world, part of an organized crime group."
*1pm GMT, May 18: The story was updated with Al Jazeera's response to the ICC's findings.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo