By Charles Randall
5th June 2012
The damage that fixing can do to cricket has been well illustrated by a case in Karachi, where Danish Kaneria came under suspicion simply because he walked off the field injured during a 20-over Super Eights match.
The Pakistan leg-spinner bowled only four deliveries for 11 runs before retiring with a side strain, and his team Karachi Zebras suffered an upset defeat to Peshawar Panthers at Rawalpindi back on March 29. An inquiry was launched when the Karachi manager later said he suspected spot-fixing and underperforming, which deflected credit from the victorious underdogs and from Riaz Afridi in particular for his four cheap wickets.
Karachi City Cricket Association interviewed Kaneria at length, scrutinising a medical certificate, and they cleared him of any wrong-doing, though it was announced after the hearing that the inquiry against other players, including former Pakistan batsman Hasan Raza, the captain, would continue.
The Mervyn Westfield case has started to undermine the credibility of professional cricket outside the highest level, and the Karachi event is a good illustration of the downhill slope. The paranoia that looks for a 'reason' behind a surprise result has a corrosive effect that could eventually repel spectators and sponsors, as the Indian Premier League will find if they do not keep a lid on corruption that stems from a huge betting market on the subcontinent.
Westfield was sentenced to four months at the Old Bailey in February for his part in accepting payment to underperform for Essex in a Pro40 match, and Kaneria was linked by the judge to the case, but the Pakistani is fighting to clear his name for a postponed ECB disciplinary hearing later in June. It is unfortunate that Kaneria has only to get injured to find himself under suspicion and that the reverberations diminish the achievement of Peshawar Panthers.
The Westfield case will not remain an isolated example of corruption while the domestic game in England carries strong betting interest. On June 4 it was announced in Bombay that the ECB had sold seven years of broadcasting rights to ESPN Star for about £130 million, a drastic increase in the face of hot bidding. Apart from the usual international matches, the deal includes 60 days of ECB domestic cricket each year. No wonder the ECB claim they are tightening their corruption controls.