Oct 092012

MUMBAI: Every once in a while, with depressing frequency, the cricket world is jolted by allegations of match-fixing. But so far, these had only involved players.

On Monday, though, private news channel unveiled a sting operation, conducted in July and August, which seems to reveal that umpires, who are supposed to protect the laws of the game, may themselves be up for sale.

The channel’s sting allegedly caught six umpires from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka on camera ‘agreeing’ to give decisions on demand.

The umpires named in the sting operation are Nadeem Ghauri and Anees Siddiqui of Pakistan, Nadir Shah of Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka’s Gamini Dissanayake, Maurice Winston and Sagara Gallage.

The International Cricket Council has launched an investigation into the allegations made by the channel.

The ICC, in a release on Monday, said, “The ICC and its relevant members have been made aware of the allegations made by the news channel this evening and calls on the station to turnover any information which can assist the ICC’s urgent investigations into this matter.

The ICC re-iterates its zero-tolerance towards corruption whether alleged against players or officials. The ICC confirms that none of the umpires named were involved in any of the official games of the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. The ICC will not make any further comment on this issue.”

In the sting operation, the reporters said they belonged to a sports management company and promised the umpires assignments in different events around the world, largely domestic Twenty20 leagues.

While Ghauri and Shah appeared to agree to give wrong decisions, Gallage was ready to pass on information about the toss, the pitch and weather conditions in a match before it was available to the public.

In May, the same television channel’s sting operation prompted the Indian cricket board to ban one uncapped cricketer for life and hand out lesser punishments to four others for involvement in corruption in domestic cricket.

Last year, Pakistan players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were jailed in Britain following a sting operation for their role in a spot-fixing scandal relating to a test match against England at Lord’s in August 2010.

Amongst the officials caught in the operation, only Shah and Sharfuddoula Ibne Shahid represent the current panel of the ICC. The channel, however, claimed that Sharfudoullah refused to give any favours.

The expose seemed to show Sri Lankan umpire Gallage agreeing to leak information on the pitch, weather, toss, and even the playing elevens of India and Pakistan ahead of their World T20 warm-up match for Rs 50,000.

Gallage, who was the fourth umpire in the game, went to the extent of guaranteeing support for a ‘particular player’ in case of any disciplinary action, the footage showed.

He also promised not to dock the player of his match fee should he be pulled up for slow over-rate. Dissanayake was shown as claiming that “by providing liquor to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) officials, one can get any work done.”

A stunned SLC chairman Nishantha Ranatunga told TOI that the board would take action as soon as the ICC probe into the matter was over. “The SLC has zero tolerance level against doping and corrupt activities.

We are waiting for the ICC to launch an investigation into this and once the probe is over, we’ll take necessary action. Having said that, we have the highest confidence in our match officials,” Ranatunga said.

Ghauri, a former ICC umpire from Pakistan, appeared to promise to ‘do anything’ for a payment. Ghauri has officiated in 43 ODIs and 14 Tests and his last international game came in November 2010.

The channel claimed Ghauri’s countryman Siddiqui also was ready to get a decision in favour of India for money. ‘Anees promised that he would manage the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to accept a decision favourable to India,’ the channel said.


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