SL launches covert operations against leery players
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2002, 22:21 [IST]
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Colombo: Sri Lankan police has launched its biggest ever undercover operation against cheating cricketers ahead of the Champions Trophy tournament starting on Thursday, officials said. Photographs of internationally known bookmakers have been made available to local police to identify if they approach players from the 12 participating teams to fix matches, police officials said."There will also be surveillance at the international airport where the teams may have some contact with bookmakers who will be waiting to welcome the players under the guise of fans," an official source said. He said several key players, their managers and even coaches and physiotherapists were on a 'suspect' list for the September 12-30 Limited Over tournament organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC). Some of the players will be watched like dangerous criminals, said a senior police officer who did not want to be identified. Sri Lanka used to deploy elite police commandos to guard players against suicide bombings, but with the government and Tamil Tiger rebels entering into a Norwegian-arranged truce in February, fears of such strikes have receded. Now, the bigger 'threat' comes from players themselves in the wake of a series of international match-fixing scandals. The ICC has a full team of its Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) assisting the local police in the overt as well as covert operations. "We are already enforcing call screening at the hotel where the players are staying," an official source said. "The numbers of incoming calls and outgoing ones are carefully screened by the police." However, the deluxe Taj Samudra Hotel took out a one-page advertisement in the state- run 'Daily News' on Tuesday to assure the international cricketers that they will be treated like 'Maharajas' (kings). The same newspaper last week carried a story on the security operation for the ICC tournament under the headline 'Dangerous Criminals'. The Taj hotel rooms, dressing rooms at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) ground and the Premadasa International Stadium, and any location in between are seen as a potential crime scene as far as detectives are concerned. "The focus is really on ensuring that we enforce the very strict guidelines set out by the anti-corruption unit of the ICC," a police source said. More than 300 plainclothes police will be deployed for the largely covert operations during the tournament, officials said. This will be in addition to uniformed police for usual crowd control at match venues in the capital. Banning mobile phones for cricketers at the match venues and at the team hotel has become standard practice. But the surveillance will now extend to the players' car park, the grandstand, practice sessions and restaurants. Closed-circuit cameras are to be deployed to keep track of players while they are in the pavilion. There will also be many other cameras filming the players off the field.