Casinos, Fake Prophet Marred Sri Lanka’s World Cup, Report Finds

Sri Lanka’s inglorious exit from the T20 cricket World Cup in Australia was accompanied by players partying at casinos, corruption and the influence of a fake prophet, an inquiry showed Thursday. Batsman Danushka Gunathilaka was arrested hours after Sri Lanka’s tournament prematurely ended and has been charged with four counts of sexual assault on a woman in Sydney. An independent panel which investigated Sri Lanka’s off-field behaviour during the World Cup in October-November revealed a litany of wrongdoing among players, officials and associates.

Sri Lanka, the Asian champions, were stunned by Namibia in their opening match and failed to progress to the knockout rounds after finishing fourth in their Super 12 group. Bowler Chamika Karunaratne was involved in a brawl at a casino along with six team-mates when he objected to a fellow punter taking his picture, the panel’s 63-page report said.

Karunaratne was fined and given a suspended ban last year. Team manager Mahinda Halangoda told investigators that the players went to a casino for dinner because “all restaurants in Australia close after 8:00 or 8:30 pm” and the gambling venue offered the only food available. The panel did not agree.

The five-member panel recommended that casinos be off-limits for players on overseas tours and that wives be allowed in their hotel rooms — a practice permitted until 2016 — to ensure they do not stray out and violate team discipline.

A former high-performance manager, Jerome Jayaratne, had no role with the team but was sent to Melbourne for 10 days and paid $7,000, according to the document seen by AFP.

Jayaratne is related by marriage to the Rajapaksa family who have dominated Sri Lankan politics for decades, including the president ousted by mass protests last year. Jayaratne contributed nothing to the team on the trip and spent time with his sister instead, the panel reported.

Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene travelled as a “consultant coach” at the cricket board’s expense but opened a branch of his upmarket Ministry of Crab restaurant chain in Australia, the panel reported.

The investigators, led by retired Supreme Court Justice Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena, called for a comprehensive audit of the Sri Lanka Cricket board and urged the sports minister to seize board documents to ensure evidence was not destroyed. A man claiming to be a prophet had established considerable influence over some team members and key officials, the panel said, calling for a wider investigation.

Under his influence the bowler Karunaratne left an oil lamp burning in his room, despite hotel warnings of a fire hazard, it added.

There was no immediate comment from Sri Lanka Cricket, but Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe said he will study the report and act on it to ensure team discipline and stamp out corruption. The panel also called for better physical fitness among national players.

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