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Tuesday July 27th, 2021

Aluthgamage’s World Cup match fixing allegation has stirred a Hornet’s nest

ADORED – Young cricketers take a picture with their hero former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, one of the most admired Sri Lankans in the world.

ECONOMYNEXT – Pohottuwa politico Mahindananda Aluthgamage is firing off controversial statements in rapid succession these days to help keep him in the limelight, but dredging up the controversy that the 2011 Cricket World Cup final was fixed for Sri Lanka to lose is perhaps a misstep.

Match-fixing is generally blamed on the players in the game, and international cricketers have gone to jail for the offence other countries.

So naturally, the top players in that game are livid at the former Sports Minister’s allegation.

Mahela Jayewardene and Kumar Sangakkara, among the best-loved Sri Lankan players in the modern game, shot back at Aluthgamage asking him to take his complaint to the ICC, and produce his evidence.

Sangakkara captained the side in that World Cup.

Samagi Jana Balavegaya contestant Hirunika Premachandra got it right when she told reporters Cricketers have brought more international fame to Sri Lanka than any politician and are better loved by Sri Lankans.


Big disappointment


There is little doubt that long-time fans of Sri Lankan Cricket suffered one their biggest disappointments when we lost the final at the Wankhede, in Mumbai that April 2.

Ours had been the winningest team in the tournament with a deadly bowling attack and legendary batting talents.

But on the eve of the final, the supremely talented Angelo Mathews was injured, and according to many pundits, both qualified and armchair, the Selectors chose to make four disastrous changes to this super side.

They dropped Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis and brought in the unheralded Suraj Randiv to support a limping Muttiah Muralitharan.

The target was modest by modern standards but the brilliant hundred by Mahela had set it up.

Then Lasith Malinga had India on the backfoot, removing the openers including Sachin Tendulkar and gave Sri Lanka hope.

But it went South for Sri Lanka after that.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni promoted himself up the batting order, and because after ‘keeping for Murali at Super Kings for many years he knew all of the master’s variations and neutralized the wizard. The rest is history.


Match-fixing allegations

A disappointed nation looked for a scapegoat and attacked the selectors for making so many changes in the side and of course, the cry of match-fixing was heard loudly, coming first from Arjuna Ranatunge.

Dark rumours were spread how shady characters had come to meet the selectors in Colombo on the eve of the game to “fix” it.

In response, Aluthgamage said he did not blame the players but the changes made in the side at the last moment which he said were done without his knowledge.

That’s odd as the Minister, under Sri Lanka’s Sports Law has to sign off on touring sides.

The politician also accused some cricket administrators of “buying car companies and starting new businesses” a year after the match was lost.

Aluthgamage also claimed he made a complaint at the time to the International Cricket Council.

This was debunked by Aravinda de Silva who was Chairman of Selectors at the time. He told the Swarnavahini TV channel on Friday that this could not be true as to the best of his knowledge there was no investigation.

De Silva says he wants “the Indian government to get involved in this allegation and investigate it.”

A clearly angry de Silva told the interviewer “I will not remain silent any more, this is a serious allegation and he should give his evidence if he has information why did he remain silent for 9 years.”

Reacting to the cricketers Aluthgamage claimed this was not the first time he has spoken of the issue. He said he wrote to the ICC about it in 2012.

The former Cricket Board Chairman Thilanga Sumathipala came to the defence of his Podujana Peramuna colleague telling reporters Friday that Aluthgamage “did not implicate the players so why are they tweeting about it?” He wanted Sangakkara and Jayewardene to stop making a fuss.

But Jayewardene shot back tweeting “when someone accuses that we sold the 2011 WC naturally it’s a big deal cus we don’t know how one could fix a match and not be part of the playing 11? Hopefully, we will get enlightened after 9 years…”

Sangakkara, who captained Sri Lanka in the final, in his tweet said “He (Aluthgamage) needs to take his “evidence” to the ICC and the Anti-corruption and Security Unit so the claims can be investigated thoroughly.”


Government takes action

Clearly the government is feeling the heat as on Friday the current Caretaker Sports Minister Dullas Alahapperuma asked the Sports Ministry Secretary to lodge a formal complaint with the ICC.

But are the players and the rest of the country over-reacting to Aluthgamage’s statements?

In his initial reaction to the accusation, Jayewardene tweeted “is the election around the corner?” implying that Aluthgamage’s statement was pure electioneering.

The former Minister has recently made news-making statements that have been controversial.

A few weeks ago after scores of Sri Lankan migrant workers returning home from the Middle-east were tested positive for COVID 19, Aluthgamage told a TV channel that the Kuwaiti government was purposely sending infected people to Sri Lanka.

“They are sending us bombs,” the former Minister said.

The government had to face a backlash as a result as migrant workers stranded in the countries where they were working felt that their motherland had abandoned them.

Luckily the Kuwaitis did not take him seriously otherwise there would have been a diplomatic incident. (Colombo, June 20, 2020)


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