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Players beat police in corruption battle

Crooked players backed by prostitutes and sign language have beaten police in the battle against match-fixing.

india Updated: Sep 30, 2002 10:22 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Crooked players backed by prostitutes and sign language experts have beaten Sri Lankan police in the battle against match fixing during the ICC Champions trophy tournament, officials said Sunday.

The anti-corruption unit of the International Cricket Council (ICC) held a meeting with police here to review the security measures at the tournament ending here Sunday, but the prognosis was not good, officials said.

Police units had not bargained to battle women invited into the rooms of players in violation of the ICC's strict "access control" regulations aimed at ensuring that they did not come into contact with bookies.

"The players had got wise to the police operation and they were giving the slip to guards deployed at the team hotel," a police official said. "Tackling the problem of women friends of players was a big problem."

Police guards were deployed to escort players from the dressing room up to the boundary line to ensure they did not have a chance to exchange notes with book keepers and fix matches.

However, a top police source said they suspected some players were using "sign language" to communicate with representatives of bookies at the stands located near the dressing rooms.

"They could use their own cricket gear to pass messages to bookies," the police source said. "A batsman could show pad and that would indicate how he intends to get out -- with an LBW -- and for the bookies that information can be turned into cash."

However, the ICC did not think sign language played a part during the latest tournament and said it was "overall pleased" with the level of security provided by Sri Lankan authorities to enforce anti-corruption rules.

"During this tournament, players have been protected in the dressing room area to a level that has never been done in any of the previous ICC tournaments," ICC spokesman Mark Harrison told AFP.

He said those entering near the dressing rooms had been carefully screened and anyone communicating with sign language may have been easily detected.

However, police sources said there were several weak areas where the field was wide open for players to pass messages to outsiders.

Harrison said the security and protection at the grounds extended to the team hotel, the Taj Samudra.

At the hotel, too, it was a battle with players to enforce the "access control" regulations with police guards confronting an unexpected foe -- prostitutes -- invited by cricketers.

After a row over women in rooms, the West Indies cricket team asked for police guards to be withdrawn, a move refused by the security authorities.

The ICC had sought police protection for all teams taking part not so much to protect players, but as a safeguard against match-fixing.

The West Indies team manager Rickey Skerritt last week accused police bodyguards of "high-handed and authoritative" behaviour after a move to crack down on women entering hotel rooms of players.

Police said in a letter to the ICC that three women were found in the rooms of Skerritt and his computer operator, Garfield Smith, in violation of the strict ICC access control rules.

Skerritt later said that all visitors to his suit were persons of "impeccable character," but police said Sunday that three women who had been invited to his room had forged identity papers.

A police report to the ICC gave the names of the three women.

More than 300 plain-clothed police were deployed for the largely covert operations during the tournament, officials said. This was in addition to uniformed police for usual crowd control at match venues in the capital.

The Champions Trophy, featuring all the 10 Test-playing nations and minnows Kenya and the Netherlands, has reached the finals Sunday with host Sri Lanka battling it out with India.

First Published: Sep 29, 2002 13:11 IST