Lanka minister slams 2011 World Cup probe

Sri Lankan police "botched" an investigation into the 2011 cricket World Cup final which the country lost to India, a senior minister told parliament on Tuesday, reviving an explosive match-fixing controversy.

Mr Mahindananda Aluthgamage, who was Sri Lanka's sports minister at the time, said he was "not satisfied", after the criminal investigation department dropped the case following allegations he made in June last year.

"The CID took the investigation in the wrong direction of the players and found nothing. As a result, they botched the case," Mr Aluthgamage, who is now agriculture minister, said in response to queries from the country's political opposition.

"They did not question any of the officials or the office bearers of the board. Had they done that, the outcome of the investigation would have been different.

"I said players were not involved. To mislead the investigation, the CID brought them in, but did not question the board president and secretary or the team manager.

"The management and officials knew what was happening, but their statements were not recorded."

Sri Lankan police questioned team captain Kumar Sangakkara for nine hours but said they found no evidence of match fixing by Sri Lankan players and dropped the case.

"There is no tangible evidence to prove Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage's allegations," a senior officer attached to Sri Lanka's Attorney-General's Department told IANS.

"We checked whether there were any connected crimes to the allegation but we couldn't find any."

"Even if there was any finding, there is no law to charge anyone as the match fixing law was enacted only in 2019 and it does not have retrospective effect."

Sangakkara said last year that it was disappointing to be questioned but insisted that it was healthy for the integrity of the game.

"It is disappointing and also a bit amusing at times," Sangakkara was quoted as saying by Cricbuzz.

"The ex-sports minister made quite a frivolous claim and we had to go in and answer questions.

"Actually, to go through and answer those questions and making those statements was really really healthy for the game. I think that process is really important for people to understand what respect for the game means."

The International Cricket Council (ICC) also said it looked into the allegations and found no reason to doubt the 2011 result.

Sri Lanka's four changes to the team just before the final at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium were raised as suspicious.

Arjuna Ranatunga, Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup-winning skipper, has also raised doubts about the 2011 final, but stopped short of making direct allegations against the players.

"I was also in India giving commentaries at the time. When we lost, I was distressed and I had a doubt," he said in 2017.

"We must investigate what happened to Sri Lanka at the 2011 World Cup final.

"I cannot reveal everything now, but one day I will. There must be an inquiry."

Sri Lanka, batting first, scored 274-6 off 50 overs and appeared in a commanding position when Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar was caught for 18. India turned the game around dramatically thanks partly to poor fielding and bowling by Sri Lanka.

Mr Aluthgamage told parliament that match fixing was rife in Sri Lanka.

"Without ending match fixing, we will never be able to win another World Cup," the minister said as Sri Lanka's national team left for the T20 World Cup to be played in the United Arab Emirates and Oman from Oct 17.

Sri Lanka made match fixing a criminal offence in 2019. Offenders face a jail term of up to 10 years and fines of up to 100 million rupees (US$680,500).

Mr Harin Fernando, the sports minister who introduced the law, has said the ICC considers Sri Lanka one of the world's most corrupt nations.



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