Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) have insisted that the pitch curator allegedly involved in the pitch-fixing claims made by an Al Jazeera documentary is not actually a curator.
SLC’s response came after the documentary – “Cricket’s match-fixers” – alleged that Tharanga Indika had tailored the surfaces to benefit bettors.
It is alleged that pitch-fixing occurred in Australia’s Test against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2016 and India’s Test match against Sri Lanka at the same venue last year.
It is understood that instructions were given to prepare a batting-friendly surface for the Test against India and a spin-friendly pitch for the Test against Australia.
In the documentary, the person identified as Indika is seen talking to an undercover reporter, who is posing as a prospective bettor. Two more men can also be seen, and have been identified as fixers.
It is alleged that Indika is someone “who oversees the pitch at Galle, where Sri Lanka play overseas matches”.
However, SLC refuted this and the board’s CEO Ashley de Silva told ESPNcricinfo: “[Indika] is not a curator. He was only the assistant manager. He was working on the administrative side and overlooking the staff at the venue.”
Meanwhile, SLC’s international venues and facilities manager, Godfrey Dabrera, made it clear that all preparations for pitches used are done by certified curators.
In fact, Dabrera was in charge of the pitches for both the Test matches that Al Jazeera shone the spotlight on.
“Anyone who works at the ground has access to the pitch, but without my permission, he can’t direct staff to work on the surface,” Dabrera told ESPNcricinfo. “All he can do is supply the labour that we need. Sometimes he directs the temporary staff we have hired to pull the covers on and off the field, but when it comes to making the wickets, he has no rights there. He has no connection to the cricket side of things. If I am not at the pitch, then my assistant Asitha, who generally works at Pallekele, is at the pitch.”
Dabrera added that while Indika has begun training to become a curator, he has yet to complete the course.
“He has attended a curators’ workshop, but he hasn’t completed that course,” Dabrera said. “Even though he has done some of the theory, there is a practical component. If you pass that only you get a certificate. He’s not a curator in any case.”
Dabrera also noted that prior to a match, bettors are usually interested about information relating to the pitch.
“People like assistant managers don’t have the power to make the pitches they want,” Dabrera said. “What is possible is that they can watch what we are doing. They can talk to the staff who have been working on the pitch. They can listen to conversations.
“I wasn’t aware anything like this was going on. Now I will have to cover everything up during the preparation of a pitch to stop [that information from getting out]. But someone who has no control over how the pitch will turn out can’t say anything like this.
“There are standards for every pitch that we have to follow. The ball can’t skid along the ground. It can’t jump up at batsmen. It can’t have inconsistent bounce. Those things are regulated by the ICC.”