BRISTOL - The International Cricket Council announced Saturday it had initiated investigations in Sri Lanka and that officers from its anti-corruption unit (ACU) had recently visited the country.

The ICC's general manager, ACU, Alex Marshall, confirmed the probe in a statement issued from the global governing body's Dubai headquarters, saying: "The ICC anti-corruption unit works to uphold integrity in cricket and this includes conducting investigations where there are reasonable grounds to do so. "There is currently an ICC (ACU) investigation underway in Sri Lanka," said Marshall. "Naturally as part of this we are talking to a number of people."

Marshall, the former head of the Hampshire police force in southern England, added the ICC would "not comment further on an ongoing investigation", a point emphasised by a spokeswoman for world cricket's ruling authority when contacted by AFP. The ICC's statement came just a day after Sri Lanka Cricket said that 40 contracted national team players, including captains Dinesh Chandimal and Upul Tharanga had signed a petition to SLC calling for an immediate inquiry into "shocking" allegations made by Pramodya Wickremasinghe.

A former Sri Lanka pace bowler and ex national selector, Wickremasinghe gave an interview to a local television station where he made allegations concerning "unnatural match patterns" and player selections, while blaming the current management for the team's poor performance. The SLC statement said current players regarded Wickremasinghe's comments as "disparaging and hurtful".

The statement said the players had refuted the allegations as "totally baseless" and added that they performed for their "motherland...with a 200 percent commitment". It concluded by saying the players had urged SLC to initiate an immediate inquiry by summoning Wickremasinghe as they had all been slandered by his "diabolic allegations". However, SLC did not say if it had launched such an inquiry. Sri Lanka recently suffered the embarrassment of losing all nine international matches in a home campaign against India.

Virat Kohli's visitors took the Test series 3-0 and then won a one-day international series 5-0 before triumphing in the lone Twenty20 international of their tour by seven wickets in Colombo earlier this month. Wickremasignhe's allegations are not the first to swirl around the Sri Lanka team.

In July, former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga -- who led the islanders to the 1996 World Cup title -- demanded an inquiry into the team's defeat by India in the 2011 final in Mumbai. Sri Lanka made four changes to their side against India from the one that beat New Zealand in the semi-finals, with Angelo Mathews, Rangana Herath, Ajanta Mendis and Chamara Silva making way for Thisara Perera, Suraj Randiv, Nuwan Kulasekara and Chamara Kapugedera.

They made 274 in their 50 overs, including a hundred from star batsman Mahela Jayawardene, before losing by six wickets. "When we lost, I was distressed and I had a doubt," Ranatunga said in July. "We must investigate what happened to Sri Lanka at the 2011 World Cup final. I cannot reveal everything now, but one day I will. There must be an inquiry."