By Champika Fernando
An independent inquiry into alleged match-fixing involving two local clubs has absolved players of all charges on a technicality but recommended tough action against the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and clubs officials whose involvement in the process which it says is now established.
Kalutara PCC and Panadura SC players appealed against a ban instituted on them in September last year by a three-member panel appointed by the SLC. After a seven-month inquiry, they were found guilty of misconduct and not playing to the spirit of the game. The investigation did not fault officials despite proof of involvement.
Palitha Kumarasinghe, PC, heard the appeal on Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera’s request.
On an application under the Right to Information Act, we obtained a copy of his findings and recommendations which the Ministry has now instructed the Board to implement. A letter was sent to SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala on Friday containing the nine recommendations that includes lifting the ban on players and taking disciplinary actions against officials.
Among the suspended players is Chamara Silva, Captain of Panadura SC, who did not take to the field on the controversial third day’s play, and Ayana Siriwardene, a schoolboy cricketer playing his maiden first-class season for Kalutara PCC.
Both captains were banned for two years. The other players were each handed a one-year suspension from all forms of cricket. These were, however, lifted two weeks later pending appeal.
The Appeal Committee found that the players were not given an opportunity to show cause against the charges and not given an opportunity to participate in the inquiry, thus breaching the rules of natural justice. It has, therefore, called for the bans against them to be lifted forthwith but questioned SLC’s decision to let officials found guilty by its own inquiry panel go without punishment.
“The Appeal Committee has observed from the documents provided by Sri Lanka Cricket that all players in Cricket Tournaments conducted by SLC are registered with SLC, giving the personal addresses and contact mobile telephone numbers,” the report states. “Further, the Disciplinary Orders imposed on the Players by SLC have been duly served on the players by Registered Post to their personal addresses given in the Players Registration. In such event, it is difficult to understand why SLC failed to serve the Charge Sheets/Amended Charge Sheet/Notices on the players directly.”
The match referee’s report and the evidence of umpire Ajith Dissanayake states that SLC and club officials were also involved in fixing the match, the report observes. It faults SLC for not acting against club officials despite them being deemed guilty by the disciplinary panel. Even though the Board imposed a fine of Rs 500,000 on each club, it did not ban them from matches or membership.
“The Manager/Secretary of Kalutara PCC, Manager of Panadura SC and the Secretary of the Panadura SC were Accused Respondents and were found guilty of by the Disciplinary Panel. However, SLC has not imposed any punishment,” report reads. Others mentioned are the Assistant Secretary of SLC and a Member of the Umpire’s Committee.
The appeal of Panadura SC players states they were denied natural justice through the “purported” inquiry process. They were merely brought to Colombo on February 8, 2017, but not allowed to face the inquiry. They were turned back saying “they need not take part in the inquiry and that he [SLC official] will take care of everything”.
The appeal adds that SLC failed to inform the players of the inquiry in writing or otherwise, depriving them of a chance to defend themselves against the allegations. Accordingly, they have been denied the right to an impartial inquiry under the provisions of Clause 3.4 of the contract.
Though there was no evidence to prove an attempted fixing of the match for financial gain, it appears it has been purely about promotion and relegation from the top tier of Sri Lanka’s first-class cricket.
Having resumed the final day on 180 for 2, Panadura added further 223 runs in 22.3 overs at a run rate of 10.34 for their first innings. Kalutara were bowled out for 197 in 22.5 overs in the second innings, before Panadura hit 167 for 7 in 13.4 to win the game.