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ICC probe runs into snags amid crisis in Sri Lanka cricket board - by Amal Jayasinghe

COLOMBO, March 29 (AFP) - An International Cricket Council (ICC) probe into match fixing allegations against Sri Lankan players has run into new snags with the deepening crisis in the country's cricket board, officials said Thursday.

Questioning of Sri Lanka's former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and his deputy Aravinda de Silva scheduled for next week has been put off till the last week of April, officials said.

Sri Lanka's lone match-fixing investigator, Desmond Fernando, said ICC's anti-corruption unit head, Sir Paul Condon, and his chief investigator Jeff Reed who were due here this week had postponed their visit.

On Wednesday, the outgoing head of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL), Thilanga Sumathipala, said Reed arrived here Tuesday to begin the probe, but Fernando said it was another ICC investigator who arrived here.

ICC investigator, Bob Smalley, is due to leave Thursday and possibly return together with Sir Paul and Reed towards the end of April, Fernando said.

He said he had given time till April 4 to Ranatunga and De Silva to make their written observations regarding the allegations that the pair took money from an Indian bookmaker to throw a Test match in Lucknow, India in 1994.

Sri Lanka's Cricket Board ran into a deep crisis even as Smalley began interviews with cricket officials in a bid to prepare the ground work for Sir Paul's visit which is tentatively scheduled for April 21 to 30.

The BCCSL led by Sumathipala was sacked Wednesday by Sports Minister Lakshman Kiriella who alleged that the sports body, the richest in the country, had violated the Sri Lanka's sports laws.

Allegations against the two Sri Lankan players were made by an Indian bookmaker, M. K. Gupta last year.

Cricket sources said Ranatunga and de Silva will be questioned by Reed while several other players from the 1994 team will also be questioned alongside team managers.

The ICC probe team was initially expected here last month, but sources said that their arrival was delayed due to Sri Lanka's Test and one-day series with England, which ended Tuesday.

De Silva played in the Test series against England, but was dropped from the one dayers. Ranatunga, who led Sri Lanka to its World Cup victory in 1996, quit international cricket in August last year.

Ranatunga has categorically denied charges of accepting bribes while De Silva had said he was approached by bookmakers but did not take bribes.

Indian book-maker M. K. Gupta's testimony was published in an Indian Central Bureau of Investigation report last year.

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