Jayasuria charged with breaching ICC’s anti-corruption code

Sanath Jayasuriya, former Sri Lankan captain and national team selector, has been charged by the ICC’s Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) with two counts of breaching its anti-corruption code. The first of these charges related to a failure to cooperate with an investigation carried out by the anti-corruption body, while the second involved ‘concealing, tampering with or destroying any documentation…that may be relevant to that investigation’. Further information, specifically regarding what the investigation being carried out was, was not given. Considering the widespread allegations of match-fixing in Sri Lanka, including the revelations by news outlet Al Jazeera about three former International players who were willing to fix matches in exchange for money, and the match-fixing which allegedly took place in two International matches in 2016, it certainly doesn’t come as a surprise to hear that there are ongoing investigations in place.

In response to the allegations, Jayasuriya made mention of the fact that he had not been charged with ‘match-fixing, pitch-fixing or any other corrupt activities’. Instead, his charges relate to his refusal to cooperate - the reasons for this alleged refusal are at this point unknown. 

The news has widespread consequences for cricket in Sri Lanka, with Jayasuriya being one of the most acclaimed players in the nation’s history. A devastating opening batsman and handy orthodox bowler, Jayasuriya played in 110 Test matches and a huge 445 One Day International’s. At the test level, he accumulated 6973 runs at an average of just over 40, including a memorable top score of 340. In the 50 over form of the game, he racked up 13,340 runs at 32.36 and at the very impressive strike rate of 91.20, and was almost the first player to score a double century in the shorter form of the game when he scored 189 against India in 2000. 

If found guilty, Jayasuriya could be banned from the game for anywhere from 6 months all the way up to 5 years. There are suggestions, however, that the charges laid against Jayasuriya are just the tip of the iceberg for corruption in Sri Lankan cricket.

General manager of the ICC’s Anti Corruption Unit (ACU), Alex Marshall, had an interview with ESPN Cricinfo, where he highlighted the potential severity of the problem in the country. Marshall said that the significant number of reports and investigations suggest that corruption exists within the system, with Sri Lanka being the country on the end of the most investigations in the past year. 

Potentially, it appears, young players have been ‘put in an impossible position by people of power and authority’, with their only two options being to refuse to contribute to the fixing and potentially lose their spot in the side, or agree and become ‘compromised forever’. 

Indicative of the severity of the ACU’s concerns is the fact that a ‘special briefing’ was given to both Sri Lankan and English players prior to the limited overs series currently in process. In this briefing, players were shown six out of ‘probably 12-20 very active corruptors’ in an attempt to keep them informed. As a result, the teams were also able to contribute new information to the ACU’s investigation.

The revelations come at a time where match-fixing is high on the agenda across the cricketing world. Recently, former Pakistan wicket-keeper Danish Kaneria admitted his own guilt over six years after being banned for life by the English Cricket Board for his role in spot-fixing a domestic one-day game in England in 2009. Kaneria, who was initially charged in 2010 before having the charges dropped, was involved alongside teammate Mervyn Westfield, who was subsequently jailed for accepting £6000 to concede a certain number of runs off an over. 

Despite being banned for life in 2012, Kaneria has refused to confess his guilt, repeatedly appealing and claiming to have been unfairly banned. He recently told Al Jazeera, however, that ‘I admit to the charges brought against me by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2012’, and that he came forward ‘because you cannot live a life with lies’. 

As much as we all love cricket, and particularly betting on it, it is an unfortunate reality that it is a relatively straightforward game to manipulate due to the diversity of markets on offer - though the same could be said for a number of other high profile sports too. The ability to bet on things such as runs conceded in an over allows match fixers to, presumably, infiltrate and influence teams and players by convincing them that the outcome of the match is unlikely to change as a result of fixing something relatively minor. When that idea is coupled with what is clearly a relatively financially healthy black market, the temptation for many players evidently becomes too much to resist.

With fixing seemingly so widespread throughout the game, the ICC’s ACU has a serious task on its hand even to negate its influence, let alone stamp it out entirely. Clearly they have a number of suspicious people who they are investigating, and it will be interesting to see how the seemingly significant number of investigations they currently have ongoing will play out in the coming months.

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