Umpires hit back after match-fixing claims
Umpires at the centre of bribery claims denied Tuesday they were willing to fix matches for cash as cricket authorities announced an urgent probe into the allegations aired in a television sting.
An undercover investigation by the private India TV channel allegedly found that six umpires, including one who is a regular fixture on the international circuit, were willing to give decisions or provide inside information on teams and playing conditions in return for illicit payments.
The accusations were broadcast only a day after the West Indies' victory over hosts Sri Lanka in the final of the World Twenty20 tournament, quickly souring the atmosphere after one of the game's premier events.
None of the umpires was involved in the tournament.
The International Cricket Council called on India TV "to turn over any information which can assist the ICC's urgent investigations into this matter".
"The ICC reiterates its zero tolerance towards corruption whether alleged against players or officials," the organisation said in a statement.
Three of those named were from Sri Lanka, while two were from Pakistan. The sixth was Nadir Shah, one of two Bangladeshi members of the ICC's international panel which officiates in matches around the world.
Grainy footage appeared to show Shah, who has stood in 40 one-day internationals and a number of Twenty20 internationals, say he was willing to give LBW decisions on demand.
The video does not show any cash being exchanged nor did the channel broadcast any proof of the umpires delivering decisions or information.
Shah said any suggestion he was open to bribery was "absolutely rubbish".
"If I am going to fix match, I will be caught some day by the ICC... no umpire fixes matches," he told the Press Trust of India news agency.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) pledged to investigate the claims, acknowledging they involved "a Bangladeshi international panel umpire".
"The BCB has a zero-tolerance policy to issues related to corruption in the game and is committed to holding a thorough inquiry into the matter," it said in a statement.
Pakistan umpire Nadeem Ghouri, another of those named, also denied any involvement.
"I am surprised at these baseless allegations," he told AFP and said he would consult his lawyers.
Ghouri has umpired in Test matches and dozens of limited-over internationals, although he is no longer part of the ICC panel.
Three Pakistani cricketers were last year jailed in Britain after being found guilty of spot-fixing following a newspaper sting.
Meanwhile Gamini Dissanayake, one of three Sri Lankans to be named, told the Colombo-based Daily Mirror the allegation was a "fabrication".
"Obviously this is an attempt at mudslinging," he told the daily.
Sri Lanka's cricket board pledged to help the ICC investigation although one official rejected the allegations as a smear.
"We will fully cooperate with the anti-corruption unit of the ICC," Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Nishantha Ranatunga told AFP.
"We have zero tolerance for corruption and match fixing and we take a very strong view on that, but at the same time I must say that we have the highest confidence in our players and officials."
Ranatunga stressed none of the umpires had stood in the World T20 tournament.
"There is a lot of negative stuff coming out of India after we hosted a very successful Twenty20 World Cup," another top board official told AFP.
"These allegations are part of a smear campaign," he added on condition of anonymity.
India TV chairman Rajat Sharma insisted the sting was authentic.
"Of course, we stand by our story because we have everything on tape and we have the proof," Sharma told AFP in New Delhi.
Shah was among the umpires at the inaugural Bangladesh Premier League earlier this year, a local version of India's high-octane IPL Twenty20 tournament.
The competition was marred by corruption allegations and ended up with former Bangladeshi international Shariful Haque being indefinitely banned.
While ICC anti-corruption officials help to police the IPL, the international game's governing body has expressed concern about other leagues including the Bangladesh tournament.