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Sri Lanka defend batsmen against TV station's report

Mahela Jayawardene sees his lawyer after a TV station in Sri Lanka is critical of him for being dismissed cheaply in the 11-run loss to Pakistan in the World Cup.

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COLOMBO // Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) launched a steadfast defence of two of the country's leading players last night, terming a report which implicated them in corruption as "baseless" and "distressing".

Mahela Jayawardene, the former captain, has taken legal advice over doubts raised on a state-run Sinhalese-language television channel about the way he and Thilan Samaraweera performed in the defeat by Pakistan on Sunday.

Jayawardene made two runs and Samaraweera one as the Sri Lankans lost by 11 runs.

The television programme subsequently criticised their performance, suggesting it changed the course of the game, and referenced a two million rupees (Dh66,000) bet which had been laid on the match.

Sri Lanka Cricket, the national governing body, said in a statement that they "strongly condemn" the channel for "a story that is baseless and thereby demoralising our players".

"We have no cause to doubt the integrity of either Mahela or Thilan," Anura Tennekoon, the team manager and former Sri Lanka captain, said.

"It is a wild accusation that has been made and we are taking it up with the people concerned. We are hoping something will come of it. So far, the International Cricket Council (ICC) have brought nothing to our notice and they have the right, if there is any doubt, to conduct an inquiry.

"As far as SLC is concerned, they are not going to conduct an inquiry as we have no reason to doubt these players."

The network then issued a clarification of their own. "It must be emphasised our intention was purely not to embarrass either player," Sudharman Radaliyagoda, the deputy general manager of Sri Lanka's Independent Television Network, said in a statement.

The best intentions of the ICC to have a World Cup free from talk of corruption have already faltered, as Australia were also forced to defend themselves against reports of fixing yesterday.

Brad Haddin termed reports that he and Shane Watson were under investigation, on suspicion that their slow start with the bat against Zimbabwe was due to spot-fixing, as "laughable".

Both Watson and Haddin have previously revealed they had reported suspicious approaches to them in the past, in accordance with the ICC's anti-corruption code of conduct.

After three Pakistan players were found guilty of spot-fixing last month, Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the ICC, confidently predicted the World Cup would be corruption free.

He revealed that the governing body were planning to increase the amount of staff deployed to police corruption at the tournament, and felt the hefty suspensions meted out to Mohammed Aamer, Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif would act as deterrents.

"I think it would take someone very brave not to take heed of what has happened," Lorgat said.

pradley@thenational.ae