Them again

Yet another Pakistani cricketer finds himself at the centre of a corruption scandal.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Danish Kaneria has maintained an obdurate façade of innocence and plans to appeal his life ban from English cricket.

The other dirty party – Mervyn Westfield – was let off by the deciding panel with a five-year suspension in the last two years of which he will be allowed to compete in domestic cricket.

The ban for the 24-year-old medium-pacer was lighter as he pleaded guilty to the charge of having ‘received a reward, resulting from his conduct in the Durham Essex match, which could bring him or the game of cricket into disrepute’.

Kaneria’s response to the verdict was predictably brazen.  

"I'm very upset about this decision. For what reason they have convicted me I do not know.  It is a very, very unfair decision against me. I've come all the way from Pakistan to say the truth.

“They (the ECB) don't have any proof against me. I don't know why they are saying this,” said Kaneria, apparently exasperated by the three-man panel chaired by lawyer Gerard Elias and which including former England player Jamie Dalrymple.

The leg-spinner, who last played a Test match in the spot-fixing ravaged 2010 series against England, now faces a permanent foreclosure to his career since the ICC’s anti-corruption code mandates that such a ruling by any national board be recognized and respected globally.

The panel that handed out the penalty stated explicitly before arriving at a verdict that, considering the grave nature of the charges involved, a guilty ruling would be based on stringent analysis of evidence.

The emphasis on a thorough scrutiny of available evidence also resulted from Kaneria's preceding reputation as ‘a professional international cricketer of great repute and experience’ who had represented Essex for six seasons as an overseas player, and from the tendency of all testifiers to falsify evidence and minimize their own involvement in the scheme.

This is not the first time that Kaneria’s actions came to the notice of the authorities. He was, as revealed by Senior ACSU Investigator Alan Peacock, warned as early as 2008 to stay away from Anu Bhatt, an Indian businessman/ bookie who was considered to be “highly inappropriate company” for cricketers.

Kaneria had told Peacock then that he had known Bhatt since 2005 and had, with his wife, even dined with him at his India home. The former Pakistan leg-spinner said he started to regard Bhatt as a “dangerous” man after he was warned to stay away from the businessman by the ACSU.

All evidence indicates that the 61-Test veteran did everything but stay away. He kept up a steady association with Bhatt and his nefarious nexus, serving as a conduit between the bookie and susceptible players in the county circuit. In May 2010, Kaneria was arrested along with Westfield, in connection with ‘match irregularities’ in the 2009 season, but released without being charged.

This mess is the latest in a series of spot-fixing incidents that Pakistan have found themselves to be at the centre of. 

Following the now-infamous 2010 Lord's Test, Salman Butt (then skipper) and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were investigated and jailed on charges of corruption secondary to spot-fixing.

Butt, after spending over two and a half years in an English jail, was freed recently. Aamer was released in February, after serving half his six-month sentence, and Asif let off in May.

County matches have now become easy target for fixers since they are beamed live into Asia, where betting is still illegal in most countries. In view of the risk potential for fixing faced by such below-the-radar games, ICC chief Haroon Lorgat lauded the ECB’s crackdown on the offenders.

“The increased popularity and television coverage for various domestic competitions around the world requires much more than just the ICC to be vigilant and we acknowledge the ECB's efforts in this respect.

“The need to protect the game from corruption requires every one of us, including the players, to remain vigilant and work tirelessly to that end,” Lorgat said.