Grassroots cricket is facing a scandal of epic proportions as reports emerge of unscrupulous agents faking statistics and demanding thousands of dollars from overseas players to help them secure sports visas to Australia.
Australia’s Herald Sun, in an explosive revelation last week, had published how the the frauds have been committed in establishing fake first class profiles, in order to play club cricket in Australia. The Cricket Australia only gives its support to visa applications, via a letter, after seeing proof of players’ superior cricket skills. Players must first show statistical evidence via international cricket database to prove they have played first class cricket in their country, as an indication that they can play, coach or instruct at the Australian national level.
When Cricket Age investigated the fake First-class profile scam in Sri Lanka, it encountered with several shocking revelations. In one such case, a player named Chathura Samantha from the Air Force Sports Club had, in 2018, plotted a fraudulent first-class debut for himself, in his bid to play club cricket in Australia.
It was an classic case of cheating and manipulation, with a collective effort!
As per the Cricket Age inquiry, the said First-class match was played between Air Force Sports Club and Kurunagala YCC on 19-21 January at Katunayake, during the Tier B Premier League Tournament.
As per the Chathura Samantha’s player database on Google, he played in the said match and took 6 wickets in the second innings.
However, when Cricket Age inquired with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) about Chathura Samantha, it emerged that he never played in the said match! While, another player was playing in the match, with the help of Team manager, scorer and some players, Chathura Samantha masterfully plotted to register the match as his first class debut!
By doing so, he achieved, what he wanted – a First Class cricketer status, which gives him the opportunity to play or coach in other countries, like Australia! As it was already planned, later he moved to Australia with the help of Sammy Kandage and settled in Melbourne!
It was further revealed that the fraudulent act of Chathura Samantha was notified to the SLC and the board had set up an inquiry as well.
“Yes. Cricket Age investigation is correct. The board had inquired the said fraudulent act in 2018 itself. On the basis of the findings, we had suspended the match scorer even – named Buddhika karunanayake” a top SLC official replied to Cricket Age email.
Herald Sun had exposed that Sammy Kandage, a Sri Lanka born players agent, who lives in Melbourne now, has come under heavy scanner for obtaining Sports visa’s by unethical methods for first class cricketers from his motherland to provide them a chance to play club cricket in states like Victoria. Kandage, along with one of his colleague, has been accused for demanding thousands of dollars from the players to help in securing visas by allegedly doctoring their career profiles, so they can gain entry to Australia.
A whistle blower claimed that statistics “mysteriously disappeared” from some Sri Lankan players’ profiles about three months, after they had obtained their visas.
“Player statistics are sometimes falsified in profiles “at the Sri Lankan end”, to show that they have a history of playing first class cricket in their home country, in order to get Cricket Australia’s tick of approval” the 23 year-old, from Sri Lanka’s southwest coast, added.
The ‘manager mafia‘ is not a new thing in Sri Lanka cricket! It has become that much lucrative business and a shortcut of earning big money, that everyone in Sri Lanka cricket, including commentators, former players, so called retired businessmen, entrepreneurs have trapped national and domestic players. The pattern is same in each and every case – first they promote players here and there, solves their one or two personal problems and then fully take over their businesses and reaps the benefits afterwords.
Once, an English-born named Charlie Austin was the undisputed king of this dodgy business, by managing several high-profile Sri Lanka players. Cricket Age had exclusively published a story on September 8, stating that presently a manager of all rounder Angelo Mathews and Fast Bowler Lasith Malinga, Austin enjoys a cult status among the Sri Lanka players. He came to Sri Lanka as a technical officer, later married to a local woman and settled down there. In the beginning, Charlie had stayed at the home of an umpire who is no more, functioned as a journalist and got friendly with the national cricketers, and then became their manager. Then, around 2005, he agreed to managing a then Sri Lanka player on a part-time basis. Six months later another top player called too. With more agency work coming in (Lasith Malinga joined the stable in 2005), Austin ceased writing in 2006 and established Austin Management. A decade and half on, he has become the go to man for majority of Sri Lanka players.
Insiders at Sri Lanka cricket claims that Austin earned big bucks during the first edition of cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), as each player had to pay his Management firm a certain percentage, for playing in the Indian extravaganza.
However, his bubble was burst by Sri Lanka’s most Iconic captain Arjuna Ranatunga (few others, who couldn’t ever win a single meaningful trophy for their country under their leadership, also self-proclaims themselves as successful, shrewd Sri Lanka captains), who was the chairman of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) interim committee back then. Later, Ranatunga raised question about growing interference of players managers in Sri Lanka cricket in the parliament as well, aiming Austin. Another former captain Tilakaratne Dilshan too made a revelation about Austin, without directly mentioning his name, during a television program. Dilshan said that after he personally negotiated an IPL contract, a certain manager had sent him a letter demanding a 10 per cent commission. Dilshan said he replied to him that it was a contract he had secured on his own.
At present, though Austin officially manages only Mathews and Malinga, Sri Lanka Cricket insiders says that due to the strong stance from the SLC, he has gone behind the scene. According to sources, under his control, one of his close friend Shyam Impett runs the show now. There also also accusations against Austin that he has floated an Inbound tour company named Red Dot Travels, which brings English fans during their team’s matches in Sri Lanka, using players complimentary tickets.
In last few years, many other agents have also emerged like Mushrooms in Sri Lanka cricket. Ravi De Silva, who has studied along with SLC CEO Ashley De Silva, is the manager of several top cricketers including test captain Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Perera and Dhananjaya De Silva. Meanwhile, Asanka Wijewardena, manager for Dhanushka Gunatilake, Kusal Mendis and Jeffrey Vandersay, is said to be assisted in the task by a relative of former captain Mathews.