'Banished' Kaneria - A spot-fixing Casualty
17th February 2012
Essex county cricketer Mervyn Westfield gets trapped on the stand, he’s in court taking a worded beating from the opposition's attorney, accusations and insults fly in. Westfield is unfazed, at least he looks so.
He’s probably just repeating the lesson his lawyer gave him the previous night, ‘No matter what happens, do not cave in!’ Westfield follows the sordid instructions for about 5 more minutes, his lawyer looks proud and terrified at the same time. Proud of how his client has hung on to every word of his, and yet terrified of his opponent’s might.
Finally, the cords snap, Westfield admits guilty after hearing a 5-minute long soliloquy by the defence’s attorney. He utters the word ‘yes’ and all hell breaks loose in the courtroom. People begin shouting in unison, ‘discipline in courtroom’ is the talk of the 18th century here!
For the defence attorney, it seems like the job is done, but the progress has only been halfway. Further revelations are made naming Pakistani leg-spinner Danish Kaneria as a bad influence on Westfield during his stint in Essex.In other words, they are partners in crime.
Mervyn Westfield and Danish Kaneria have been found guilty of spot-fixing and in a moment worlds fall apart, one in England and one in Pakistan.
News reaches to the home of Danish Prabha Shanker Kaneria that he’s has been banned for life for playing cricket in England, but Kaneria’s not convinced. Maybe in his heart he knows that he’s wronged himself and his country, but he’s not ready to accept the consequences for the mistake that he has supposedly made.
Kaneria engages himself in a slew of legal battles with the England and Wales Cricket Board. More disappointment follows! His appeals have been turned down emphatically and quite embarrassingly as well. T
he last of his appeals was turned down in July 2013 with the ECB issuing a statement saying, “We note, with regret, that Mr Kaneria has neither made any admission of guilt nor expressed any remorse for his corrupt actions, despite the weight of evidence against him." Soon after the Pakistan Cricket Board decided to abide by the ECB’s decision and issued an official ban to Danish Kaneria.
Under the conditions of this hefty ban, Kaneria cannot play any cricket that falls under the auspices of the PCB. He cannot be seen at any PCB ground. He cannot train at any PCB facility. He cannot be seen publicly with former team-mates. Kaneria is now living a loaded exile in his city, in his country, his life has lost all direction, he has nowhere to go, he now has empty days to fill.
A first look into the case makes one perceive it as simple enough. Player found to be indulging in spot-fixing, contacts with bookies, suspicious interactions, substantial evidence found. Result- Banned from playing cricket for life. Many might think that Kaneria’s case falls under this category. Many might be wrong! Interestingly enough this case has more to it than what meets the eye. There are a lot more figures involved in the complexity of this case, all the more adding to the potential that the shocking allegations hold.
Kaneria has maintained throughout his defence that during Pakistan’s tour to West Indies in the summer of 2005, he was introduced to Anu Bhatt by a PCB official who would later go on to deny the same repeatedly. Bhatt has been identified by the ICC as an Indian businessman suspected of involvement in match-fixing.
Kaneria has went on to acknowledge the fact that his first meeting with Bhatt wasn’t the last. Another meeting followed during Pakistan’s tour to India in November 2007. But this time Kaneria wasn’t alone. The whole Pakistani team accompanied him to a dinner at Bhatt’s Delhi residence.
Kaneria and his team-mates were made to believe that Bhatt is a very generous man. The impression was made by Bhatt himself as on first meeting he presented the Pakistani players with numerous gifts. Kaneria disclosed that one of the gifts he received was a mobile phone.
Now back in Pakistan and the ICC Anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU) which was closely following Bhatt’s actions in India, tries to warn Kaneria describing Anu Bhatt as ‘highly inappropriate company’. Like governments, the ICC has its own watchlist. At any given day its agencies are capable of tracking down people with suspicious motives.
In that sense, the ACSU is kinda like the batman of cricket. Kaneria chose to ignore his well-wishers from the ACSU perhaps thinking to himself, ‘I ride alone on the mean streets of this world. I alone will choose my company and no one else’. Now with regret and remorse in his heart, he would be wishing he had paid heed to them.
He took a flight to England to play county cricket for Essex. County cricket as we all know, can only polish a cricketer’s skills. He would have felt even more tempted by the offer given the fact that despite being a test regular, he had yet to prove his mettle in the limited overs format. Then what’s better than county cricket to prove yourself.
Late in August and Bhatt reaches England and meets Kaneria. He manages to lure in a teammate, Mervyn Westfield preying on his lack of experience and greedy nature. The three indulge in spot-fixing a Pro-40 game, with the monetary exchange taking place in a car with Westfield receiving 6000 pounds for his efforts. The rest as they say, is history.
The International cricketing community may have denounced Kaneria as a disgrace to the game and written him off as a cheat, but back home in Karachi, h finds a supporter in his childhood coach and mentor Rashid Latif.
For Kaneria, Latif is no less than a Godfather taking him into his academy in 2000 and making a wonderful leg-spinner out of him who would go on to be touted as Mushtaq Ahmed’s successor. Given Latif’s background as the great corruption whistleblower who sacrificed his career so that he could clean the game of the corrupt impurities, in his attempt exposing some of Pakistan’s own cricketers, his presence and unconditional support to Kaneria seems a bit odd.
His continued support to the leg-spinner makes one wonder if he is indeed innocent as he has been claiming for the last 5 years. Or maybe this has more to do with Rashid Latif and his firm belief that a corruption whistleblower like him couldn’t have been the coach of a corrupt cricketer.
The astoundingly tall Kaneria sits in his simple, yet lavishly styled living room. In the corner lies a big drawer showcasing his awards and photos from his cricketing days. The drawer is a source of happiness and despair for Kaneria.
Happiness for it brings back fond memories to his mind but despair because once the happiness fades, a realisation kicks in that he might never be able to return to the field. For someone who hasn’t been an active sportsman for 5 years now, Kaneria looks amazingly fit.
He reveals the secret that he still trains diligently. He wakes up in the morning and hits the gym, following which he goes to the Karachi Parsi Institute where he does his cricket training. That’s a typical day in the life of Danish Kaneria.
Before capping of the day, Kaneria picks up the pen and writes a letter to the ICC, trying to convince them to take note of his situation. He signs off the letter saying that being a Hindu in Pakistan, he has worked very hard to reach where he is today. Maybe it's the first time he’s tried to add his religious identity to his defence.
Maybe he does it all the time. Who can really know? He wakes up the next day and the same cycle kicks in. Surprisingly, the monotonous lifestyle hasn’t dampened Kaneria’s spirit. He compares his situation to the laws of mother nature. If the sun has set, then it will rise again.
That’s how it is meant to be. There is no other way. I would compare it to a bad and dull day at the office. 34 overs have set in, dead and lifeless wicket, set batsmen, solid partnership, just the one wicket down.
Kaneria’s eyes still gleaming with hope that 3 or 4 wickets will follow. His conviction scares me for I think that this is the end of his road. For me, it seems highly unlikely that he will ever be able to return to international cricket. Maybe my mindset is fraught with irregularities. Kaneria still believes.
He still lives by every day hoping that tomorrow will be better. He has no other choice I guess. Financially his resources have dried up, lost in a series of legal battles. His brother supports his family. Personal tragedies are not far behind. He lost his father in 2013 when he was fighting for his case in England. The case was lost too. Now thanks to the case, he owes a hefty amount to the ECB.
We see his career stats and we realise what a prolific bowler he was. 261 wickets from 61 Tests and nearly a 1000 wickets in the domestic circuit. Playing for the Karachi Whites, Karachi Blues, Karachi Zebras, Karachi Harbour, he now lives in the same city with his family.
The city which earlier celebrated him has now become his place of refuge. How times change! I think it's high time we stop questioning who is right and who is wrong. That’s something which has been proved in court time and again.