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News

'He was with the team in an official capacity' - SLC to bear Gunathilaka's legal fees

On whether the board's reputation is tarnished: We should support "someone who has fallen into such a situation"

Danushka Gunathilaka has been suspended by SLC from all forms of cricket  •  AFP/Getty Images

Danushka Gunathilaka has been suspended by SLC from all forms of cricket  •  AFP/Getty Images

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) says it is paying for Danushka Gunathilaka's legal defence in Australia because the charges of sexual intercourse without consent were laid on him while he was on national duty at the T20 World Cup.
It is also not yet clear whether Gunathilaka breached SLC's own protocol by going on a date during an active tour, something the board CEO Ashley de Silva told ESPNcricinfo was prohibited. Six days after the alleged incident, SLC says it is yet to figure out whether Gunathilaka broke curfew on Wednesday, November 2, the night to which the charges relate.
SLC has no contractual obligation to assist Gunathilaka's defence, and is doing so voluntarily. De Silva insists, however, that it will recover the legal costs eventually, either by asking Gunathilaka to pay the board back, or by docking payments the board owes him.
"This wasn't a private visit," de Silva told ESPNcricinfo. "He was with the team in an official capacity, so we felt we should pay the legal fees, on the condition that we can recover them from him later, whatever the results of the case.
"His parents probably aren't able to do that [cover the legal costs]," De Silva said further. Gunathilaka has been a regular part of Sri Lanka's limited-overs teams since mid 2017, playing 47 ODIs and 46 T20Is, in addition to eight Tests. He has appeared in at least three franchise T20 tournaments and also has local sponsorship deals.
De Silva equated SLC's backing of Kusal Perera in the first six months of 2016, to their support of Gunathilaka now. "Just like we recovered the cost of that case, after Kusal Perera was cleared, we will do so here as well."
Perera's case, however, was not criminal in nature and there is no previous instance of SLC providing official support to a player facing criminal charges.
Gunathilaka had been ruled out of the T20 World Cup on October 19 with a hamstring injury but had remained with the squad in Australia as "a stand-by player" when the alleged incident occurred.
Asked whether SLC's own reputation is tarnished by its support of a player facing such serious charges, de Silva said the board should offer its support "to someone who has fallen into such a situation".
Whether Gunathilaka breached the team's own touring codes - something that would normally warrant internal censure - de Silva was not sure yet. SLC has appointed a three-member probe to make an "independent inquiry", and de Silva said the team manager is in touch with the ICC's security personnel to ascertain whether Gunathilaka breached curfew that evening.
SLC also denied an allegation from a senior journalist that politicians had instructed the board to bear Gunathilaka's legal costs. The board did this via a statement issued on Tuesday, which said that "Sri Lanka Cricket has in no way been influenced by a 'third party' in carrying out the obligatory actions required to be taken to allow Mr. Danushka Gunathilaka to pursue any legal rights available to him".
Later in the same release, SLC said it had been "in consultation with the Ministry of Sports and Youth, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the consular officials" in taking steps to pursue Gunathilaka's legal rights.
Gunathilaka was arrested on the morning of November by Sydney police, and charged with four counts of sexual intercourse without consent, and was later denied bail. According to de Silva, apart from a five-minute period around the arrest during which Gunathilaka spoke to the team manager, SLC staff has not been in direct contact with the player.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf