Friday, 17 February 2012

I'm not angry Essex, just disappointed

It's not been a good day for Essex CCC today, that is abundantly clear. Just how bad a day it has been may only emerge later, once the dust has settled. For the moment, we know that Mervyn Westfield has become the first English cricketer to be jailed for match-fixing, and that Danish Kaneria is going to be facing some very awkward questions, and the possibility of a life ban from cricket.

Whilst the Kaneria revelations came as a shock, they were hardly a complete surprise. He had been arrested at the same time as Westfield, and there was a general feeling that even though he was never charged, there was no smoke without fire.

What seems to be the most shocking part of today's hearing is the fact that the fixing allegations seem like they were quite widely known in the Essex dressing room, and yet everyone seemed to turn a blind eye. As ESPNCricinfo put it:

"His behaviour at Essex failed to raise alarm bells, despite Mark Pettini, the club captain at the time, saying in his statement to police that Kaneria had discussed fixing with James Foster, a former England international and the man who was to succeed Pettini, and David Masters. The three later discussed the episode but did nothing about it, on the grounds that Kaneria was joking.
 The batsman Varun Chopra, now with Warwickshire, also recalled a phone conversation in which Kaneria had said "there are ways of making money, you don't have to throw a game."
After Westfield's late-night revelation in 2009, Palladino told two junior team-mates Adam Wheater and Chris Wright. When Westfield was confronted by Wheater, however, he denied the story."

Questions really have to be asked, especially of the three senior players who seemed perfectly happy to take it as a joke and not ask questions, and perhaps Westfield's barrister (quoted in The Cricketer) said what many would have been thinking:

"Mark Milliken-Smith, QC, defending Westfield, said it was “startling” that no one reported Kaneria to authorities, and accused players of perhaps deliberately “turning a blind eye”, because despite his links to fixers, Kaneria remained an important match-winning bowler for Essex."

Whatever truly happened at Essex during this time, the stink of the episode is likely not to wash off the county for a while. 

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