The International Cricket Council (ICC) said on Saturday it was investigating allegations that a Sri Lankan groundsman had agreed to tamper with the pitch to alter the result of an upcoming Test match against England.
The ICC said it took the allegations reported in an Al Jazeera documentary “very seriously” and urged “all evidence and supporting material” to be shared with the investigators.
Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has revealed how criminals fixed two Test matches – the highest level of international cricket – and were planning to fix a third.
The two fixed matches were Sri Lanka versus India in July last year and Sri Lanka versus Australia in August 2016. Both matches were played at Galle International Stadium in Sri Lanka.
In secretly filmed meetings, the match-fixers also said that they were planning to fix England’s game against Sri Lanka, also at Galle, in November this year.
The world cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), has launched an investigation into Al Jazeera’s findings.
Robin Morris, a match-fixer from Mumbai, told undercover reporters that he bribed the groundsman at Galle to doctor the pitch to ensure guaranteed outcomes. The match-fixers then made large sums of money from betting.
‘We can make pitch do whatever we want’
In Al Jazeera’s documentary, Cricket’s Match-Fixers, the groundsman, Tharanga Indika, assistant manager at the Galle stadium, says he can make pitches to favour either bowlers or batsmen.
“If you want a pitch for spin bowling or pace bowling or batting, it can be done.”
Cricket’s Match-Fixers will be available to watch online on Sunday at 10:00 GMT.
At a meeting in a hotel in Galle, Morris gestures towards Indika, and says: “What happens is he, we, can make a pitch to do whatever we want it do to.”
“Because he’s the main curator. He is the assistant manager and curator of the Galle stadium.”
For the Australia match, Indika says he made a pitch for bowlers.
“In that five-day match, we prepared the wicket poorly without using a roller. In that way, we made a spinning wicket.”
The “bowling pitch” ensured that the game would not last for the full five days and so the game would not end in a draw.
Batsmen were out quickly and the match was over in less than two and a half days. A Test match can last for up to five days. Knowing that batsmen would struggle, the match-fixers made money by betting that the game would not end in a draw. A Test match can end in a draw only if no side has won when the teams have played for the full five days.
Sri Lanka Cricket has pledged to cooperate fully with anti-corruption officers as the sport awaits the broadcast of an investigation by Al‑Jazeera that is understood to allege details of a plan to fix England’s first Test match in Galle this November.
Some footage from the documentary Cricket’s Match-Fixers, which will be televised on Sunday, has already been made public, which allegedly reveals the groundsman at Galle telling an undercover reporter he can tailor the pitch to produce a specified outcome for betting purposes.
A statement from Sri Lanka Cricket said: “SLC will extend its fullest cooperation to the ICC to investigate the latest allegations levelled via media reports over ‘match fixing’. SLC wishes to state that it has zero tolerance towards corruption and will take immediate action against any person involved in the alleged incident, if found guilty.”
In the program Robin Morris, a former Indian cricketer, is filmed telling reporters he can arrange bespoke pitches for betting purposes – his payment would be 30% of any winnings – while the stadium’s assistant manager and groundsman, Tharanga Indika, is recorded stating that he can ensure the Sri Lanka versus England Test match does not end in a draw.
Morris has since denied any wrongdoing and claimed he thought he was auditioning for an acting role in a movie “for public entertainment only”, while Indika has said he was simply being courteous to foreign tourists and is similarly not corrupt.
England’s winter tour to the island, in which they will play three Tests, five-one-day internationals and a one-off Twenty20, has already drawn the ire of the Barmy Army. The supporters’ group and travel company have accused Sri Lanka Cricket of “blatant profiteering and short-sighted greed” over proposed ticket prices for the Test series.
The company’s latest information is that while local fans will be able to buy tickets on the grass banks for £1.41 a day those travelling are to be charged just under £50 a day for seats provided they book for the entire match, with no refund policy should it finish early.
The Barmy Army website states: “This blatant profiteering and short-sighted greed does nothing to enhance Sri Lanka as a cricketing destination and ultimately we feel it is likely to do damage to the country’s reputation as a reasonably priced general tourist destination.”