Upul Tharanga leaves the special Investigation Unit in Colombo after questioning (AFP Photo)
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka opener Upul Tharanga on Wednesday became the first player to be grilled by detectives in a probe investigating claims that the 2011 Cricket World Cup final was fixed.
The 35-year-old was questioned for two hours by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) examining the conduct of the final, which Sri Lanka lost to India.
“They asked a few questions in connection with the ongoing investigation. I gave my statement,” Tharanga told reporters without giving further details.
Tharanga, who scored two runs off 20 deliveries in the match at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, was called in after investigators quizzed chief selector Aravinda de Silva for nearly six hours on Tuesday.
The investigation was launched after government minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, who was sports minister at the time, alleged that Sri Lanka threw the match in April 2011.
“I feel I can talk about it now,” Aluthgamage told a local TV network last month. “I am not connecting players, but some sections were involved.”
Sri Lanka batted first and scored 274-6 off 50 overs. They appeared in a commanding position when Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar was out for 18.
But India turned the game around dramatically, thanks in part to poor fielding and bowling by Sri Lanka, who were led by Kumar Sangakkara.
India won the final by six wickets.
SIU chief Jagath Fonseka said officers would decide who else to interview after analysing Tharanga’s testimony.
Fonseka said they were obtaining intelligence reports as well as input from unspecified international sources to continue their probe.
De Silva declined to comment about his questioning or the selections he made for the 2011 finals.
International cricket in Sri Lanka has previously been linked to corruption allegations, including claims of match-fixing ahead of a 2018 Test against England.
Last month, the Sri Lankan cricket board said the International Cricket Council was investigating three unnamed ex-players over corruption claims.
Match-fixing was made a criminal offence in November. Offenders face fines of up to 100 million rupees ($555,000) and up to 10 years’ jail.