Fixing spotlight turns on Australia and Sri Lanka

No substantial proof but claims of spot fixing behind low-key performances start to scratch the surface

Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, the Australian openers, have been left fending off Doubting Thomases that their slow start against Zimbabwe in their opening World Cup clash was with sinister design.

And to add fuel to doubts over every low-key performance a state-run television channel in Sri Lanka has cast aspersions in the way Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera batted in the game against Pakistan, a match they should have won over their profligate rivals.

While Haddin sought to laugh off the reports as a joke, Jayawardene has said that legal advice is being sought and the team officials pursuing the matter very seriously.

The Indian news agency Press Trust of India reported that the Anti Corruption and Security Unit of the International Cricket Council has taken note of the surprisingly slow start where the three-time world champions made a 28 runs in 11 overs against the minnows from Africa. Australia went on to post 262 for six en route to a 91-run victory.

"It's quite a laughable story. It's a joke," Haddin told reporters after the team's net session at Colombo's Sinhalese Sports Club. "It's not a case (of spot-fixing). We just got off the mark a bit slowly."

The ICC have declined to comment on the matter but team manager Steve Bernard described the suggestion as "ludicrous".

Bernard added: "that is the silliest thing I've heard this week - and I've heard a lot of silly things since I've been here".

Independent Television Network (ITN) in an analytical documentary aired on Sunday criticised several players including Jayawardene and Samaraweera, who scored two and one runs respectively, for their poor performance in the 11-run defeat. Sri Lanka are one of the favourites to win the tournament.

"The lawyers will decide what proper course of action should be taken," Jayawardene told Reuters.

The channel also accused a businessman of betting 2 million rupees (Dh63,000 approx) on Pakistan's victory without giving any further details. "We are treating the matter seriously," said Nishantha Ranatunga, the secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket.

Compared to other Asian neighbours, the 1996 World Cup champions have been relatively free from corruption and match-fixing scandals. "People who make such allegations should be careful of what they say unless they have sufficient proof," Sri Lanka's team manager Anura Tennekoon said.

The ICC told Reuters on Tuesday that each of the 49 matches at the World Cup were "to some extent" scrutinised by an anti-corruption unit.

A spokesman explained that unless the unit, which keeps its deliberations secret, planned action against a team or individual then the ICC itself would not be informed.


Marlon Samuels, the West Indies batsman who served a two-year ban due to alleged links with an Indian bookmaker, said Tuesday he turned down a chance to return to the subcontinent for the World Cup.

The 30-year-old said he was approached by selectors to replace Dwayne Bravo after the all-rounder withdrew with a knee injury, but opted instead to stay at home and work on his domestic form.

An unsourced report in the Trinidad Express, however, said the batsman's decision not to play in the World Cup was because he feared being arrested in India.