Ranatunga and De Silva cleared of match-fixing

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The Independent Online

Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva have been cleared of match-fixing charges in a report from the International Cricket Council's Central Bureau of Investigation. The Indian bookmaker Mukesh Gupta had claimed that Ranatunga, then the Sri Lankan captain, had agreed to play badly in the Test against India at Lucknow in 1994 and De Silva had received £10,000 after the game.

However, Desmond Fernando, appointed by the Sri Lankan board to investigate the allegation, is believed to have recommended that no action be taken in a report. Fernando was not given the chance to question Gupta but concluded that his statement implicating the two players was "inadequate and untested".

The ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit announced earlier this month that Gupta had failed to meet a 1 July deadline to back up the allegations.

"In my view, the inquiry held by me has a higher evidentiary value than the mere statement of Mr Gupta," Fernando said in the 11-page report that took nine months to compile. "His statement lacked precision."

De Silva, his country's most prolific scorer in Tests, admitted being approached by an associate of Gupta's who wanted to discuss fixing a game in "1996 or 1997" but insists he ended the meeting immediately. Ranatunga, who has denied all knowledge of any match-fixing all along pointed to Gupta's claim that no fee was agreed beforehand.

"Even Judas Iscariot agreed upon a price of 30 pieces of silver before he betrayed Jesus Christ," he said.

The 1996 World Cup-winning captain put his and De Silva's poor performances in the matches in question down to poor officiating.

"Both of us were two batsmen only. The umpiring had been terrible. I was one of the victims on this particular one," he said.

The Sri Lankan cricket board will examine Fernando's report before issuing an official statement. The ACU was set up last year by the ICC to root out corruption from the game after the South African captain Hansie Cronje admitted to taking money from bookmakers.

Cronje and two other former Test captains – India's Mohammad Azharuddin and Pakistan's Salim Malik – have since been banned for life.