FORMER PAKISTAN leg-spinner Danish Kaneria confessed to his involvement in match-fixing six years after he was handed a life ban by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for the same. In an interview to Al Jazeera, the 37-year-old who is still the most successful Test spinner in his country’s history, admitted to have introduced his former Essex teammate Mervyn Westfield to an “infamous Indian match-fixer” and encouraged the fast bowler to accept money to underperform in a domestic game.
Westfield, a fast bowler, pleaded guilty in 2012, served a two-month term and a five-year ban for having accepted 6000 pounds to concede a fixed number of runs in his first over in a Pro40-England’s then domestic one-day competition-match against Durham in 2009. Kaneria was also arrested along with Westfield but he wasn’t charged owing to lack of evidence over his role. He was, however, found by the court to have acted as the “recruiter” for Anu Bhatt – the alleged match-fixer-and then having “cajoled and pressurized” a “young and vulnerable” Westfield. The issue came to light after former Essex all-rounder Tony Palladino, who ended up as the whistle-blower, revealed to the authorities about the fast bowler’s involvement after he allegedly “showed him the money”.
The Pakistani, who took 261 wickets in 61 Tests, though continued to deny these claims and even appealed, unsuccessfully, against the verdict on two occasions. And then he finally cracked and revealed all to Al Jazeera. “My name is Danish Kaneria. And I admit that I was guilty of the two charges brought against me by the ECB in 2012. I have become st..strong enough to make (sic) this decision because you cannot live a life with lies,” Kaneria says to the camera, decked in a suit and looking visibly older since the time he last played for Pakistan back in 2010.
In the next frame, he’s seen talking about his reasons for trying to defend himself against the verdict, which found him guilty. Kaneria had slammed the ECB in various interviews following the ban saying, “The ECB says I should show remorse, but on what should I show remorse? On something I haven’t done?” The ban meant that Kaneria could not be picked by any team to play in a match or tournament organized under the aegis of the ICC. “They have taken my cricket, which is my bread and butter,” he’d told BBC Asian Network back in 2014. He’d also criticized the Pakistan Cricket Board for offering support to Mohammad Amir, who’d been jailed and banned for his involvement in spot-fixing in a Test match in 2010, saying, “I don’t know why they are treating my case differently,” he said. “He’s been convicted and has gone to prison. I don’t know what’s wrong with them. It’s heart-breaking.”
But here on camera, Kaneria recalls having protested his innocence and struggled to accept his guilt owing to his father’s bad health. “His health was getting worst, and worst, and worst (sic). And I didn’t have the courage to face him and to tell him that I was wrong. He was a very, very proud guy…very, very proud of me, what I did, representing Pakistan, representing my country,” he says.
In that same interview to the BBC, Kaneria also denied having ever “pressurized” Westfield into accepting the money or getting involved. “”I have not pressured him or done anything that’s brought the game into disrepute, so I’m not guilty,” he said. The leg-spinner then revealed that he would tell Westfield if they ever met again, “Why did you put a knife in my back? I had a wonderful career — why did you destroy it? You get everything back, but for me everything has been taken away by the ECB.”
But to Al Jazeera, four years on, Kaneria speaks about how he wants Westfield to forgive him. The court’s findings back in 2012 charged the Pakistani with having “knowingly” induced Westfield by introducing him to Bhatt at a night-club, Dukes, with the intention of luring him. Kaneria is then alleged to have bought tickets for Bhatt and another Asian man to be present at Chester-le-Street for the contentious match, where Westfield was said to concede 12 runs in his first over.
“Mervyn used to tell me that he wants to become a rich cricketer. I was highly-paid at Essex and I was an international player at that time. And I was living a life, a very lavish life. So he also wanted to make money. I think so he was targeted by Anu Bhatt. And I think he fell into that temptation,” Kaneria tells Al Jazeera. And then comes his apology. “I want to apologize to Mervyn Westfield, my Essex teammates, my Essex cricket club, my Essex cricket fans. I say sorry to Pakistan, being an international cricketer and a senior cricketer, I should have taken an one step higher of telling Mervyn that this guy is suspicious,” he says. Kaneria then pulls out his wallet and flashes a picture of his late father, who died of cancer, to the camera.
“I want to apologize to my father (takes his wallet out to show the camera a picture of his late father) who has always been a role model for me. And I always have his photo with me.” He then recalls having met Bhatt on a tour of the Caribbean in 2005 and then having accepted a dinner invitation when he toured India as part of the Pakistan team a few years later.
According to the court’s judgement in 2012, Alan Peacock, a senior investigator with the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, had warned Kaneria about “Bhatt being heavily involved in illegal betting” and was “therefore inappropriate company” for the Pakistani to have. There were reports in April 2008 about the ICC’s ACSU having met a few Pakistani players including Kaneria, Younis Khan and Umar Gul about having attended a function, which could allegedly be the dinner that had Bhatt as one of the guests – during the tour of India the previous year.
Kaneria expresses regret over having not informed the concerned authorities about having been in touch with Bhatt and his presence in England in 2009. “When the ICC came to Pakistan, they told several cricketers and me that he is a suspicious guy and he’s involved in doing fixing, I regret very much I didn’t complain to the higher authorities like English cricket board or ICC unit. I didn’t inform them or I didn’t told them (sic) that this guy is over here,” he says.
“I was the highest wicket-taker for Pakistan at that time also. I was achieving good money. I lost everything,” he says. He then, with folded hands, pleads for forgiveness, and in turn promises to be an example and guide for young cricketers to ensure nobody else goes down the same road as he did. “I want to ask people forgiveness. I hope that they..they will forgive me and give me a second chance in my life. I want to teach young people, young cricketers there are people who will give temptation to you but you have to be strong,” he says.