Sri Lanka drops WC cricket fixing probe for lack of evidence
Former Sri Lanka's cricketer Mahela Jayawardene arrives at the Special Investigation Unit to be interviewed by police in Colombo on July 3, 2020. AFP
Sri Lankan police on Friday dropped a criminal investigation into the 2011 cricket World Cup final, saying they found no evidence of match-fixing by players to let their Indian opponents win.
The world governing body of the sport, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said it had also looked into the recent allegations and found no reason to doubt the integrity of the 2011 final, won by India.
Former chief selector Aravinda de Silva, and the team's skipper Kumar Sangakkara and opening batsman Upul Tharanga were questioned this week over suspicions that have dogged the match for years. "We are satisfied with their explanation," a top police official told AFP. "The inquiry is now closed."
Sri Lanka's four changes to the team just before the finals at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium were raised as suspicious by a Sri Lankan minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage last month. He was the minister of sports in 2011.
The officer said police had spoken to the players and the chief selector. "They had reasonable explanations about the changes that were made to the final squad," the officer said. "We found no evidence of any wrongdoing."
However, the ICC said it was willing to review its findings if presented with credible evidence. "We take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously and should we receive any evidence to corroborate the claims, we will review our current position," ICC anti-corruption chief Alex Marshall said in a statement. "If anyone has any evidence that this match or any other has been subject to match-fixing, we would urge them to get in contact with the ICC Integrity team."
The sudden decision to end the Sri Lankan police investigators came after the 2011 team's vice captain Mahela Jayawardena went to the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) office to give a statement. "We will give our maximum cooperation," Jayawardena told reporters before leaving the SIU when officers refused to accept his testimony and told him to return later.
Jayawardena had been called in after Sangakkara was grilled for nearly 10 hours by detectives on Thursday.
The investigation has led to a social media backlash against the government which is facing a parliamentary election on August 5. Opposition legislator Bimal Rathnayake poked fun at the police over the marathon grilling of Sangakkara, who is also president of England's prestigious Marylebone Cricket Club.
He tweeted that a 50-over cricket match lasts around 7-8 hours, even if all 100 overs are bowled, adding: "Committee questioned Sanga for 9 hours! Did they question him ball by ball?"
Sri Lanka's Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said police dropped the high-profile match fixing probe following the social media and political backlash. "Magic of 'People Power' has worked," Premadasa said on Twitter. "Sri Lanka's government has ultimately succumbed to public pressure and abruptly withdrawn the bogus, manipulated and politically motivated investigation... Bravo people of Sri Lanka!"
Another former sports minister Harin Fernando, who introduced anti-corruption laws in November, said Aluthgamage should be prosecuted for making a false allegation against cricket legends. Match-fixing was made a criminal offence in the new law. Offenders face fines of up to 100 million rupees ($555,000) and up to 10 years' jail.
Aluthgamage faced a widespread backlash in the cricket-mad country for implicating former players in match fixing. There was no immediate comment from Aluthgamage over the cancellation of the investigation.