Sri Lanka has crashed out of T20 World Cup being held in Australia. But, it is in the news not for its failure to reach semi-finals. Sri Lankan team’s all-rounder 31-year-old Danushka Gunatilaka’s arrest on charges of rape in Sydney has shocked the island nation, which is still struggling to restore its almost collapsed economy. Danushka is not new to controversies and has a history of sexual misconduct back home.
Sri Lankan people, former cricketers and even politicians are hotly debating the issue, blaming the Sri Lanka Cricket Board or SLC for the current mess.
According to a report in Sri Lanka’s leading English daily The Daily Mirror, the allegations which have rocked the cricketing world has also brought much disgrace to the Sri Lankan cricket, which continued with Danushka’s selection despite the cricketer facing an alleged dark past.
Danushka is no stranger to cricket-loving citizens. Although the country was expecting to see his performance on the field, the cricketer had allegedly other plans brewing.
According to a statement given by deputy Superintendent Jane Doherty, Australia’s Sex Crimes Squad Commander, which was played by the Australian media, Danushka had met the woman on dating app Tinder and the two had been chatting for weeks. The two met for the first time at the Opera bar in Sydney though Danushka was well aware that he had a commitment with the national cricket team. They had decided to return to the woman’s house in Rosebay for consensual sex, but when the victim had allegedly requested Danushka to wear a condom, which he had refused. When asked, the cricketer allegedly choked the 29-year-old woman after arguments and sexually assaulted her.
The Australian police arrested Danushka on November 6 night just as the Sri Lankan cricket team was preparing to leave the country on an early morning return flight. He was produced before an Australian court on November 7, where his bail was rejected.
Investigations have revealed that this is not the first time that Danushka has faced disciplinary charges. Sources within the SLC told The Daily Mirror on November 7 that in the past two years, the cricketer had faced at least three allegations of misconduct against women, and one incident of misbehaviour where he along with two other players broke the bio bubble during a tour in England.
Sources said in the past two years, Danushka had faced two complaints down south for allegedly harassing women, including one in which he visited a nightclub/hotel in Mirissa and allegedly made advances on a woman who then moved away after slapping him.
In 2018, the SLC had put a six-match ban on the batsman for breaching player rules as the police investigated the allegation of rape by a Norwegian woman in his hotel room in Kollupitiya.
Danushka was questioned by the police after his associate Sandeep Jude Selliah was accused of raping one of two Norwegian women in a hotel room where the team was staying.
The police said Danushka was not an accused, but the cricket board found him guilty of breaching team discipline and violating his contract.
SLC rules stipulate that during matches, players must be in their hotel rooms by midnight and cannot have guests.
This incident in 2018 was just months after he faced another disciplinary inquiry in October 2017, where he missed a training session following late-night partying.
Even during the England tour in 2021, where he, Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis faced a one-year ban after a bio bubble breach during the Covid-19 pandemic, Danushka and the rest of the two players were cleared in a year and taken back into the team.
With Danushka already having such a troubled past for which he kept getting a clean chit, a serious question arises why the selection committee of the Sri Lanka cricket continuously kept such a player in the national team even as a backup player. Why was he even sent on tours? asked sources in the sports industry.
Soon after the sexual assault allegations against Danushka went viral on November 7, the Sri Lanka Cricket was quick to release a statement stating that it had initiated a thorough inquiry into the matter and said it will take stern action against the player if found guilty.
“SLC will closely monitor the proceedings in court and, in consultation with the ICC, will expeditiously initiate a thorough inquiry into the matter and take stern action against the cricketer, if found guilty,” the SLC said.
The author is Associate Editor at The Daily Mirror. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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