Sri Lanka’s Quick Exit from T20 Cricket World Cup in Australia Due to Casinos, States Report

The beginning of the end of the T20 cricket World Cup in Australia last year had a surprise result. Sri Lanka, favored to go all the way, couldn’t make it to the knockout round, and a new report suggests that Australia’s casinos are to blame.

Danushka Gunathilaka
Sri Lankan cricket player Danushka Gunathilaka on the pitch. He’s free on bail in Australia over sexual assault charges in just one of several scandals rocking the team’s fall during the T20 cricket World Cup last year. (Image: Associated Press)

In the Asia Cup’s Super Four points standings, Sri Lanka ranks first with six, two better than Pakistan. The team’s performance set it up for what should have been a big finale at the World Cup, which many bettors saw as a slam dunk.

However, things didn’t go as planned, and the country’s cricket representatives dropped their heads in shame as they lost to Namibia in the Group Stage, 163-108. An independent panel in Sri Lanka wanted to learn what happened after rumors began surfacing, and their findings are an embarrassment to the team.

63 Pages of Scandals

A perfect storm of irrational behavior, sexual assault, and false prophets knocked Sri Lanka off its pedestal. From players to team officials, it appears everyone was more interested in a large free-for-all orgy than trying to win the tournament.

One example is Danushka Gunathilaka. The veteran batsman allegedly raped a woman in Sydney, Australia, leading to his arrest after the team’s exit from the competition. Prosecutors later charged him with four counts of sexual assault, and he is currently out on bail.

Chamika Karunaratne took out his frustrations at an unidentified casino in Brisbane, when he got into a fight. He received a suspended one-year ban from cricket and a fine of US$5,000 for his actions.

The bowler wasn’t alone in that incident, as six of his teammates participated, as well. The fight began over a request to take a picture, according to the Sri Lankan report.

The players admitted to being at the casino, but said that they weren’t there to gamble. Instead, they were hungry and there was no other place to go.

Mahinda Halangoda, the team’s manager, told the inquiry that restaurants closed by 8:30 p.m. in Australia, leaving the casino the only option. A quick Google search reveals at least a dozen restaurants open past 1 a.m. More than 40 restaurants around the Brisbane area list their closing hours as 11 p.m. or 12 a.m.

Going forward, the inquiry panel decided that casinos should be off-limits. In addition, it wants players to be able to invite their wives on trips, ostensibly to keep them from wandering off.

Unnecessary Baggage

The government-led inquiry also wanted to know why Jerome Jayaratne accompanied the team. He’s a former player who’s no longer involved with the team.

This didn’t stop him from receiving a 10-day trip to Melbourne and a paycheck of US$7,000. He reportedly did nothing for the team the entire trip. Instead, he spent his time in Australia with his sister.

Jayaratne has a relationship with political figures, and nepotism may provide the link. He’s the father of Tatiana Rajapaksa, who is the wife of Rohitha Rajapaksa. The latter is the youngest son of Namal Rajapaksa, a son of exiled former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and a former Minister of Sports.

Former team captain Mahela Jayawardene traveled with the team as well. While his knowledge and expertise would have been welcome, he apparently didn’t do much in his capacity as a designated “consultant coach.” Instead, according to the inquiry, he spent his time opening a new store for his Ministry of Crab restaurant chain.

There are also allegations that the team’s early exit was because of a false prophet’s influence. At least one player and another team official fell under his spell.

Sri Lanka was supposed to easily win its match against Namibia. They were so far out in front that sportsbooks were giving them odds of around -900 ahead of the match. Instead, they only delivered disappointment and embarrassment to themselves and the country.