(Reuters) - The International Cricket Council (ICC) is taking “extremely seriously” the allegations of corruption to be aired in a documentary by news organisation Al Jazeera on Sunday.
The programme allegedly uncovers a groundsman agreeing to doctor pitches for test matches involving some of the world’s leading teams.
Match-fixing has become a major concern for the sport in recent years and the ICC has launched an investigation.
“The ICC has now had the opportunity to view the documentary into corruption in cricket and as we have previously stated, we are taking the contents of the programme and the allegations it has made extremely seriously,” Alex Marshall, general manager of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit, said in a statement on Sunday.
“A full investigation led by the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit, working with full cooperation from all Member countries identified in the programme, is now underway to examine each claim made.”
The Australian newspaper reported on Saturday the documentary will allege that spot-fixers bribed the groundsman at Galle to doctor the pitch used for the 2016 test between hosts Sri Lanka and Australia.
Last year’s test between Sri Lanka and India at Galle is also under suspicion, while match-fixers have targeted England’s test at the same venue in November this year, The Australian said.
The Sri Lankan Cricket Board (SLC) is to complain to the Criminal Investigations Department against the people allegedly involved in the pitch-fixing reported by Al Jazeera.
“SLC decided to suspend with immediate effect the alleged individuals involved in the said incident against whom ICC is carrying out investigations,” it said in a statement.
“SLC will fully cooperate and offer all assistance to the ICC on its investigations on the said Al Jazeera documentary which has wider allegations globally.”
England and Australia have backed their players.
“There is nothing we have seen that would make us doubt any of our players in any way whatsoever,” England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison said in a statement on Sunday.
“They emphatically deny the allegations, have stated categorically that the claims are false and they have our full support,” Harrison added.
“Neither ECB nor the ICC is aware of any credible evidence connecting any England players to any form of corruption.”
England captain Joe Root reacted strongly.
“It’s outrageous that England players have been accused of this,” Root said after his team’s nine-wicket defeat by Pakistan in the first test at Lord’s.
Cricket Australia (CA) said it was not aware of any credible evidence linking Australian players to corruption.
“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 CEO James Sutherland said in a statement.
The Indian Cricket Board said it was working closely with the ICC and its Pakistan counterpart said it was going through reports alleging the involvement in corruption by a former Pakistan player.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai, Editing by Ed Osmond