27 June 2012

Is Spot-Fixing Always Going to be Rife in Cricket?

Danish Kaneria is Pakistan's highest ever wicket-taking spinner with 261 Test scalps and 15 ODI scalps. Add this to over 1,000 first-class and 262 List A wickets and he has one of the best records for any spin bowler of the modern era. He has had a career full of many highs and lows with 15 Test five wicket hauls while always struggling to impose himself on the ODI side. He was an old-fashioned tail-ender and scored just one first-class fifty in 264 innings. At Essex he was one of the most successful bowlers on the county circuit and his 16 wickets in ten matches helped the team to the 2005 National One-Day League title. A firm fan favourite in both his home country and at Chelmsford he enjoyed an excellent career thanks to his abundance of talent.

However in spring 2010 charges were brought against him and Essex team-mate Mervyn Westfield after allegations of spot-fixing in a pro40 game with Durham in 2009. This scandal was overshadowed by the Pakistan national team who had three players jailed for their roles in the spot-fixing at Lord's against England. Young fast bowler Mohammad Amir received six months in prison, Mohammad Asif a year and captain Salman Butt 30 months. The three internationals were given between five and ten year bans from the ICC which were the heaviest bans of this type since Hansie Cronje's life ban a decade before.

While all this was going on former Pakistan bowler Kaneria was being questioned by Essex police for his role in the spot-fixing against Durham, of which he denied any involvement. Fast bowler Westfield pleaded guilty to two counts of fixing and was jailed for four months in January 2012. He was allegedly being paid to bowl a specific over that would concede 12 runs and he did this by bowling deliberate wide deliveries. Kaneria was recently found to be a 'corruptor' of Westfield and although there was not enough evidence to bring charges against him in court, the ECB banned him from cricket for life. This followed being banished by the PCB two years before for not appearing in front of an integrity committee.

Spot-fixing in the world of cricket seems to be becoming a big problem and big names in the cricketing community have shown a big concern about the matter. Many want a no nonsense approach to the players involved. Ex England bowler Darren Gough said of the sentences handed out to the Pakistani players: "I'm pleased, I would have liked to see the (sentences) longer to be honest." Not everyone was convinced that spot-fixing can be stopped. Former bowler Bob Willis was sceptic towards the possible banishing of fixing when he said: "This will certainly help to eradicate spot-fixing and match-fixing in the UK, as for the rest of the world I'm not sure."

2010 was not the first year that spot-fixing was realised as a problem. Pakistani cricket has often been alleged to be corrupted, especially their domestic game while the first high-profile case was Hansie Cronje in 2000. An investigation by the Indian media found him to be taking money in exchange for changing his performance but many people believed Cronje's lies that he was innocent. He was seen to be an ambassador for cricket and had a great standing in the game and was the figure-head of post-apartheid cricket in South Africa. However he eventually admitted the charges and was banned from cricket.

When that happened many people thought that it was the first step towards bringing an end to the spot-fixing empire. Although strides have been made, for example the Pakistani cricketers' jail sentences, corruption still riddles the game and Kaneria's life-time ban proves this.

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