New Delhi, May 28: A sting operation has claimed to unearth 'pitch-fixing' and 'spot-fixing' in Test matches featuring heavyweights like India and Australia but the ICC said its investigation into the allegations is being hampered by the channel's refusal to share evidence. The sting has been carried out by the Al Jazeera channel and the matches in question are India vs Sri Lanka (Galle, July 26-29, 2017), India vs Australia (Ranchi, March 16-20, 2017) and India vs England (Chennai, December 16-20, 2016). The first and third Tests mentioned were won by India while the Ranchi encounter ended in a draw.
The charges -- pitch could have been doctored at the behest of fixers (India vs Sri Lanka), and involvement of some Australian and England players in spot-fixing the other two games. However, no Indian player's name has cropped up in any wrongdoing. The ICC said it is investigating but also stated that the channel has not cooperated in the matter.
"We have been in ongoing dialogue with the broadcaster which has refused our continual requests to cooperate and share information which has hampered our investigation to date," ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit General Manager Alex Marshal said in a statement after Al Jazeera aired its hour-long documentary, 'Cricket's Match Fixers', today.
"The content of the programme is, of course, useful to the investigation, but I would now urge the production team to provide us with all un-edited and unseen evidence they are in possession of, to enable us to expedite a thorough investigation," he added.
The only Indian connection to the scandal is former Mumbai cricketer Robin Morris, who is now alleged to be a match-fixer. The BCCI said it would wait for the outcome of the ICC investigation before deciding on stopping his pension for a 42-match first-class career.
"The BCCI anti-corruption unit is working closely with the ICC anti-corruption unit on the alleged claims by a television channel," stated a release from the Board. "We believe the ICC has started its probe. Let them complete that and pronounce Morris guilty. The BCCI will only act when they have the verdict in hand," said a senior office-bearer of the Board. He also said that Morris, who has also played 51 List A matches in his career, is currently not involved in any BCCI projects.
"We need to check with our Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) whether Morris' name was there on the suspect list. Secondly, he is not associated with any BCCI or state unit project currently from where we need to pull him out. "So the only thing left is BCCI domestic cricketers' pension of Rs 22,500 (after deductions). If he is getting that pension, BCCI is well within its rights to cancel that but only after he has been proven guilty," the official said.
Morris, on his part, reportedly denied any wrongdoing and cried conspiracy before turning his mobile phone off and deleting his Facebook account.
Cricket Australia too responded cautiously and said it would need more details before acting. "Although not having been provided an opportunity to view the documentary or any raw footage, our long-standing position on these matters is that credible claims will be treated very seriously and fully investigated," CA Chief Executive James Sutherland said in a statement.
"Neither the ICC or Cricket Australia is aware of any credible evidence linking Australian players to corruption in the game. "We urge Al Jazeera to provide all unedited materials and any other evidence to the ICC investigation team, so, if appropriate, a full and thorough investigation can be conducted," he added.
England and Wales Cricket Board Chief Executive Tom Harisson, on the other hand, outrightly rejected the allegations surrounding the 2016 India-England Test in Chennai. "There is nothing we have seen that would make us doubt any of our players in any way whatsoever," Harrison said in an ECB statement. "The limited information we have been given has been discussed with all the England players. They emphatically deny the allegations, have stated categorically that the claims are false and they have our full support."
Harisson also said that the TV channel has refused to share footage. "There have been repeated requests for any evidence and unedited materials to be shared with the ICC so they can fully investigate. We, like other member boards, are disappointed that Al Jazeera have not been more cooperative and responsible when making such serious allegations," he said. In the documentary, Morris is seen introducing Galle curator Tharanga Indika to the undercover reporter and boasting about getting pitches doctored as sought by fixers.
Morris, along with former Pakistan cricketer Hasan Raza (world record holder for being youngest ever Test cricketer), is allegedly seen in the video bragging about their ability to doctor pitches through groundsmen. Another alleged match-fixer Aneel Munawar is also seen claiming to manipulate particular sessions of the game. The channel claims that Munawar works for the underworld. In the documentary, which is titled Cricket's Match-Fixers, Al Jazeera has alleged that each one of the predictions made by Munawar came true during the games in Ranchi and Chennai. The channel has, however, refrained from naming the players it alleged were involved, citing legal reasons and an ongoing probe by the ICC.