English cricket is shamed as Westfield jailed for spot-fixing

 

The Old Bailey

On a grim day for English cricket, Mervyn Westfield, a former Essex player, was sent to prison at the Old Bailey yesterday for corruption. The 23-year-old, who was sentenced to four months for spot-fixing in a county match, is the first English player to be jailed for such an offence.

Westfield had pleaded guilty last month to accepting £6,000 to concede 12 runs from an over in a Pro40 game against Durham three years ago. In sentencing him at the Old Bailey yesterday, Judge Anthony Morris QC said: "If because of corrupt payments it cannot be guaranteed that every player plays to the best of his ability, the reality is the enjoyment of many millions of people around the world who watch cricket will eventually be destroyed."

Yesterday also saw Danish Kaneria, the Pakistan Test player, named in court as Westfield's corrupter. Kaneria denies any wrongdoing, but it was suggested by Westfield's defence team – and accepted by the judge – that it was Kaneria who first approached Westfield. Essex police have passed their case files to the England and Wales Cricket Board, who will decide next week whether to open an investigation into Kaneria. The police have no plans to re-open their own investigation as they do not believe there is sufficient evidence for a criminal case. What will also have alarmed the English cricket authorities yesterday was the suggestion that knowledge of what Westfield had done was widely held around the Essex dressing-room for six months before any action was taken. Judge Morris said in sentencing that Kaneria had made "similar approaches to other Essex players, who had laughed them off as a joke".

Statements taken from players claimed Kaneria had spoken widely about match- and spot-fixing, including in front of the former England wicketkeeper James Foster and the county's captain Mark Pettini. Paul Grayson, the county's coach, said he knew of rumours around the club of Kaneria wanting to introduce players to his bookmaker.

Judge Morris imposed a custodial sentence in part as a deterrent to others against getting involved in such practices. It follows the imprisonment of three Pakistan players, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, last year, also for spot-fixing.

The match against Durham took place on 5 September. Westfield told Palladino, after the two players had been for a night out on 14 September, what he had done. Westfield emptied a plastic bag containing £6,000 in £50 notes on his bed. Palladino did not go to the authorities until the following March "no doubt out of a misguided sense of loyalty to you," said Judge Morris. He did tell team-mates Chris Wright and Adam Wheater before the matter was finally reported to Grayson in March as the players began training for a new season. Westfield was arrested on 29 March. Kaneria was questioned but never charged.

Judge Morris said in sentencing: "You told Palladino that Kaneria had approached you and told you he had a friend who would pay you money if you conceded more than a certain number of runs in your first over in the Durham match, that you were to receive £6,000 and Kaneria £4,000."

Since 2010 the ECB has introduced an extensive education programme and set up its own anti-corruption unit. In December Chris Watts, the former policeman who leads the ACU, said that the greatest corruption threat "may lie" around the county game. That is in part due to the relatively modest sums county players are paid. Westfield earned £20,000 a year at Essex.

The ECB's disciplinary committee is expected to meet next week to decide whether Kaneria should be investigated. He is now playing domestic cricket in Pakistan for Habib Bank and Sind. He has taken to the courts in Pakistan in an attempt to clear his name.

Essex County Cricket Club released a statement last night. It read: "This is a very sad day for all at the Club. It is going to take a while for us to fully digest the comments of the judge."

It also emerged in court yesterday that Kaneria had been warned by the ICC, cricket's governing body, in 2008 over his association with a known illegal bookmaker, Arun Bhatia.

Westfield is expected to serve two months. He has also had the £6,000 confiscated.

Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect