Fixing Failure: Why did corruption linger in the Essex dressing room?
Mervyn Westfield has been jailed for his involvement in spot fixing in a Pro40 game in September 2009. Danish Kaneria has been named as the main ‘corrupter’ in the Essex dressing room.
It is sad that in the past few months we have had to see some very young cricketers to go jail for their involvement in spot fixing. Nonetheless, there is a strong message in the jail sentences that have been handed out.
What is most worrying, however, is the comments of Westfield’s lawyer. He claims that members of the Essex dressing room frequently ‘turned a blind eye’ to Kaneria’s approaches, and never reported them until 2010 under instructions from the Professional Cricketers’ Association.
The list of names who had been approached or had heard Kaneria talking openly about fixing is astonishing: Mark Pettini (Essex captain), Paul Grayson (Essex coach), James Foster (29 at time of Westfield’s spot fixing), David Masters (31 at the time), Varun Chopra (22) and Tony Palladino (26) who finally reported him.
The list above contains some very experienced players. Pettini and Grayson certainly should have talked to anybody of some importance about Kaneria’s comments. Pettini says he had not taken the claims seriously, but surely any any claims should be worth investigating? Certainly Foster and Masters should have had enough experience between them to know that it is important to warn authorities about any spot or match fixing comments.
There are some possible reasons why Pettini, Grayson, Foster and Masters all seem to have failed in their duty to make authorities aware of Kaneria’s comments.
Maybe in 2009 the ECB were failing to provide adequate information onto cricketers and clubs on dealing with corruption.
Alternatively, Kaneria, with over 1000 First Class wickets was too good for Essex to lose.
I hope it’s not the second option. It somehow implies that experienced and important players in a team are somehow above the rest. It implies they can somehow get away with anything as long as it is kept quiet and the police and cricketing authorities do not know about it. It suggests that even the senior players in a dressing room will pretend that spot fixing is not likely to occur within their team, when the player making the comments is important to their results.
Thankfully, Palladino did do the right thing in reporting Westfield, and it has opened the door to possible, deeper corruption involving Kaneria.
The question is, why did it take so long for anyone to speak up about fixing? If somebody had got there sooner, could something have been done about Kaneria (assuming his guilt) before he ever approached the young Westfield, who was only 21 at the time?
As it is, another young cricketer with great potential is going to prison. Questions though must surely linger over why players in the Essex dressing room failed to act.