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Alex Marshall’s war on corruption   

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Rex Clementine in Dubai 

With the immense popularity of T-20 cricket and mushrooming franchise leagues all over the world, the game of cricket was under the threat of corruption. When the International Cricket Council was on the lookout to rope in someone to head its Anti Corruption Unit, they went for a high profile Scotland Yard police officer in Alex Marshall.

Marshall (59) is someone who is held in high esteem in the UK. Since joining the ICC, he has gone about his business meticulously and 22 individuals (five Sri Lankans) had been charged for breaching the Code of Conduct by the Anti Corruption Unit. What is important is that of all individuals the ICC charged, except one all others either accepted sanctions or the tribunal found them guilty. You can assume that the corruptors have been kept at arm’s length to a large extent, but eagle-eyed Marshall doesn’t take the foot off the gas. His war on corruption in cricket is very much fiercely focused.

“The participants who have been charged include franchise team owners, team managers, coaches and players,” Marshall said in an interview with a group of Sri Lankan journalists.

 “Our effort is to keep the corruptors away. One of the ways to do it is to find out how the corruptors work. If they are going to approach you how are they going to do it? What are your weaknesses? What would you do in social media? Would you like to go to night clubs? Do you like going to casinos? Will 10,000 Dollars work or 30,000 Dollars work?

ICC’s vibrant Anti Corruption Unit has done well to educate players and Marshall gave a glimpse to the public how corruptors work during our interaction. “The most common way is that players get a strange social media exchange which goes like ‘I would like to sponsor your bat’ or ‘we are having an event and you can come along’ or ‘there is a franchise tournament coming along why don’t you come to Dubai and meet the owners’.

A few years ago, the Anti Corruption Unit had been heavily focusing on Sri Lanka investigating quite a few cases and Marshall was pleased with the way players have responded. “In Sri Lanka players have become very good at spotting and understanding how the corruptors are likely to get at you. It is hard for corruptors to get to the players if they phone us in the first sniff when they sense something dodgy. But if the corruptors go through an ex-player, whom they (current players) get on with and trust, they will get a conversation with them.”

It has been a real embarrassment for Sri Lanka as a nation to have so many corruption investigations going on but Marshall commended the tremendous improvement the country is making in fighting corruption.

 “There is a big improvement. At one point it was 22 live cases. All I ever said was that is the highest number of investigations among all the cricket nations. I never said that Sri Lanka is the most corrupt.. But that has tumbled. Sri Lanka is not the leading number of investigations at the moment by a long way. We have seen a significant difference. As we have got through all those cases. Players have got better and better in reporting any sort of suspicions.”

One of the good things done by the previous government is making corruption in sport a criminal offence and a person can go to jail. Harin Fernando as Sports Minister put in a lot of effort to introduce the bill to the Parliament in 2019 and it was passed without any delay.

 “Sri Lanka brought in legislation to make match fixing a crime. Top effort! They are the first country in the sub-continent to bring in that legislation. I think that message has gone across to most people. Anyone who is trying to ignore that legislation goes to prison. In England people have gone to prison for fixing cricket matches. In Sri Lanka, we have seen a shift where it’s considered a serious thing with the Police and government getting involved. The government has taken it seriously. My view is that playing group is switched on. The playing group is a good group. If someone tells them to play badly, they’ll tell us. They have been coming along to tribunal and giving evidence which is what they are supposed to do. Across the world of cricket, people are quite scared of doing it. They don’t like doing it. But in Sri Lanka, players have started doing it. So there is a massive improvement in Sri Lanka.”

Franchise cricket seems to be the most vulnerable of all formats with unknown owners coming through and there is a strong need for proper vetting of these entities. SLC initiated the Lanka Premier League last year and the dates for the second edition has been already announced this year.

“What we do know is where a franchise tournament goes wrong, it is very often through the franchise owners. So if we get the wrong people in charge of a team, you will get corrupt approaches. We have been working with IPG and SLC to say that we give them a list and ask them to go through this with every franchise owner. That process is going on at the moment. We don’t give anyone a clean chit. But if they share the details with us, we will say that person is a person of interest to Anti Corruption Unit. But they have to do the due diligence. SLC sanctioned it and it has been played under their code. IPG is the company that is running it. They both have to do diligence properly,” Marshall noted.

With legal implications involved, ICC has to be cautious about the process that they follow from the moment an individual is under the spotlight to where he is sanctioned. Marshall explained the process. “We name someone when someone is charged. We have investigated certain individuals in Sri Lanka for two years but we don’t mention the name to anyone. We don’t even tell the Sri Lankan board. When we complete an investigation, I might say that’s all the evidence we have gathered. Looks like they may be involved with something but I don’t have enough to recommend charges. Or when we have lots of evidence, we send a report to our lawyers saying we recommend that a person is charged for breaching the code. If the general counsel agrees, he consults with other people and we send a letter saying that we believe you have breached the code in these places. You can now go to a tribunal or you can accept and agree a sanction. That’s the first time we ever publicize that person’s name. We publish a statement but we don’t give any comments. Then we tell the whole story when the tribunal is finished or we reach a point where a sanction has been agreed.”

SLC has two individuals now working full time on their Anti Corruption Unit and there’s scope to recruit more people to make it a vibrant one given the challenges the sport has faced in the last five years. “The boards that are better off have the biggest and strongest Anti Corruption units. So Australia, England and India have pretty big anti corruption departments. Sri Lanka has two people. Zimbabwe has one, part time. We have a good relationship with them all. Pakistan actually has a good anti corruption unit too. It is variable across the world. It’s about what they can afford to spend on having people working in those roles.”

Several ex-Sri Lankan cricketers have featured in unsanctioned cricket events all over the world and Marshall warned the dangers of getting involved in these competitions. “To run a league it has to be approved by the cricket board. If you are an associate member and if it is going to involve some international players – more than four –then you need to get ICC approval to run the event. There have been events that we have refused to sanction. Then it is called unsanctioned cricket. If any player takes part in unsanctioned cricket, they can be banned from cricket. Mauritius had an unsanctioned league last year. Some Sri Lankan players went and played unsanctioned cricket. Those players when they came to thr T-10 tournament, they were thrown out. They were told you have been playing unsanctioned cricket without an NOC. Therefore you are thrown out of the tournament.”

After Parliament passed legislation, a police unit was established at Sugathadasa Stadium to investigate corruption in sports. ICC has been educating local police officers how to go about things. “We have sent two people to Sri Lanka to work with them. My chief investigator and another investigator spent a few days training them. We shared with them how we approach because they are not coming from a sports corruption background. They come from a police background. We come from a police background as well but we have been doing corruption in sport for many years. We have been working with them. Where we lost was because of COVID. We spent less time working with them than what we wanted. As soon as we can travel, we will be in Sri Lanka more often.”



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Mendis and Embuldeniya seal big win for Sri Lanka 

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Ramesh Mendis was the pick of the bowlers for Sri Lanka finishing with 11 wickets. He claimed 18 wickets in two Tests and was named Player of the Series. 

Rex Clementine in Galle 

In Test cricket, no Sri Lankan bowler has had such an early impact as those with the surname of Mendis, not even the great Muttiah Muralitharan or his partner in crime Chaminda Vaas. First it was Ajantha Mendis and now it is Ramesh Mendis. These are very early days for this Dharmashoka lad but he could go onto become a prominent Test cricketer as he showcased with a match bag of 11 wickets yesterday as Sri Lanka completed a 164 run rout of West Indies in Galle.

Playing just his fourth Test match, Mendis complemented his career best figures of six for 70 in the first innings by claiming five for 66 in the second essay to finish with a match bag of 11 wickets. Ambalangoda is the home for many prominent Sri Lankans like CWW Kannangara, General Sarath Fonseka, Mahinda Deshapriya and Mendis could be the next big name from the coastal town popular for biling achcharu, ambul thiyal, masks and cinnamon.

Former great Michael Tissera hands over the Sobers-Tissera Trophy to Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne following Sri Lanka’s series win over West Indies in Galle yesterday. 

It was a fantastic display of spin bowling. Mendis kept bowling to an impeccable line and length playing the waiting game and then when wickets started falling, they were falling in clusters.

West Indies had done well to reach lunch at 65 for two and looked set to fight out a draw. But after lunch, Mendis broke the 27 run stand between Shape Hope and Nkrumah Bonner that had lasted for 48 minutes and soon found himself taking two more wickets in the same over as Roston Chase and Kyle Mayers were dismissed without troubling scorer Tushara Corray.

He had claimed 16 wickets in the two Tests and was named Player of the Series.

Lasith Embuldeniya, one year younger to Mendis and from Royal College, kept the pressure from the other end to also finish with a five wicket haul. He had started off by dismissing Jermaine Blackwood in the last over before lunch and then polished through the tail. It was his fifth five wicket haul in Test cricket.

West Indies collapse was quite dramatic as they lost eight wickets for 40 runs. None of their batsmen managed a half-century.

Former Ceylon captain Michael Tissera was present to hand the Sobers-Tissera Trophy.  Sri Lanka moved up to number seven in the ICC Rankings for teams in Test cricket while West Indies slipped down to number seven.

Sri Lanka also collected 24 points from the ICC World Test Championship. They had won the first Test by 187 runs.

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Vichinthya, Methwan, Githmi win singles titles  

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106th Colombo Championships Tennis

Vichinthya Nilaweera, Methwan Wijemanne and Githmi Fernando won their respective age group singles titles of the 106th Colombo Championships which continued at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday.

Nilaweera fought back to clinch the Under 16 boys’ singles title as the Stafford International College player scored 0-4, 5-3, 10-8 to win against Venuka Kithnula.

Royal College player Wijemanne beat Danushka Dias (5-3, 4-2) in straight sets to win the Under 14 boys’ singles crown’

In the Under 12 girls’ singles final, Ave Maria Convent, Negombo player Githmi Fernando was the winner against Gehansa Methnadi (4-1, 1-4, 10-8).

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Jaffna Central meet Vidyaloka Galle in the final

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Under 19 Division III Tier ‘A’ Cricket

Two unbeaten teams, Jaffna Central and Vidyaloka College, Galle will battle it out for the title of the Inter School Under 19 Division III Tier ‘A’ tournament at Nalanda College ground, on Saturday.

The two teams were the champions in their respective groups during the first round and they continued in the same vein in the knockout stage to secure their final berths.

Jaffna Central will bank heavily on S. Sarangan, the batsman in form. Sarangan was the key to their success in the knockout stage after having scored decisive knocks, an unbeaten 31 and a half century at the business end of the tournament. J. Vithushan and V. Viyaskanth also made notable contributions during that phase.

R. Newton, V. Viyaskanth, N. Ajay, T. Gowtham and Inthujan stood out in the bowling department during the knockout stage.

For Vidyaloka, Umanga Imanjana, Sonal Ransara and Sasindu Lakshan played key roles with the ball during that phase, while Sonal Ransara, Kavinda Basnayake, Yasith Deshan and Sineth Praveen did well with the bat.

How they reached the final

Jaffna Central beat all Group ‘F’ counterparts namely, Skandavarodaya MV, Chunnakam, Hindu College, Kokuvil, Hindu College, Jaffna and St. Patrick’s College Jaffna in the first round.

During the knockout stage the team captained by B. Inthujan beat Royal College, Polonnaruwa, St. Joseph’s College, Wattala and Rajasinghe Central, Hanwella.

Vidyaloka remained unbeaten in Group ‘J’ in the first round. The team captained by Pasindu Lakshan beat Debarawewa National School and Wanduramba Central College. Vijitha Central, Dickwella and Madampa Central were the other two teams drawn in their group but their withdrawal made things easy for them.

During the knockout stage they beat Badulla Central in the pre-quarter final round. Their quarter-final ended in a no result but they were able to advance to the semi-finals thanks to their superior run rate over Ibbagamuwa Central. In the semis they edged out Methodist High School Moratuwa in the semi final.

 Teams: 

Jaffna Central (from): B. Inthujan (captain), V. Viyaskanth, S. Abiyuth, B. Kavitharshan, G. Janujan, T. Kaveejan, S. Sarangan, U. Tharmikan, J. Vithusan, A. Kajan, R. Newton, T. Gowtham, M. Sansayan, N. Ajay, S. Anusanth, S. Similtan, D. Poulparamathayalan, T. Abilash, S.Sayanthan, S. Mohommed. Officials: S. Tharshan (Master in Charge), F.R. Selton (Coach)

Vidyaloka College (from):

Pasindu Lakshan (Captain), Senith Praveen, Dilshan Kavinda, Dilan Rashinda, Dulara Nimsara, Sonal Ransara, Gihan Asanka, Chamith Shiran, Umesh Kavinda, Chamath Nirmal, Sasindu Lakshan, Hasanka Jayanath, Yasith Deshan, Umanga Imanjana, Dasun Chamod, Rashmika Prabath, Harsha Manohara, Hansaka Randeepa, Prageeth Bimsara. Officials: L.R. Manatunge (Master in Charge), Thusitha Kariyawasam (Coach).

(RF)

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