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September 26, 2013
Mervyn Westfield on Mind, Matters, Integrity
Mervyn Westfield, the former Essex cricketer, has spoken publicly for the first time about the chain of events which led to him receive a prison sentence for spot-fixing as part of an anti-corruption campaign headed by the Professional Cricketers' Association.
Westfield describes in the PCA video how he was lured into spot-fixing by the former Pakistan legspinner Danish Kaneria. Kaneria was banned for life for his part in the affair in June 2012 and lost his appeal against the ban in an ECB hearing in July this year.
Kaneria's lawyers have since filed an appeal in the UK in the Commercial Court, with Kaneria stating that he wants his story to be heard by all. The Commercial Court deals with complex cases arising out of business disputes, both national and international.
Westfield tells in the PCA video how his four-month sentence in Belmarsh prison coincided with the discovery that his father had cancer and how he was shaken by the knowledge that he had let down his parents and that he was no longer a good role model for his two younger brothers.
"I first met Danish at the age of 18 in the second year of my professional contract," Westfield tells. "He was a very bubbly person. Everyone liked him in the dressing room. He was a role model for most of the people in our team.
"Basically I was at his house and he asked if he could speak to me outside… that's when he started first talking about it. He said it's hard for a young person to get money nowadays in cricket and that's how the conversation started.
"He suggested to me that a few people in the game were doing it as well. I felt confused because I didn't really understand where he was coming from or what he was talking about. Him and his friends kept on asking and asking and I felt pressured into it and I sort of had to do it. I just felt so confused what was going."
Westfield was asked to concede a pre-planned number of runs in a televised 40-over tie against Durham in Chester-le-Street in September 2009. He inadvertently failed to concede the number of runs agreed but after Essex returned home in the early hours of the morning he was paid anyway. He reveals that he resisted suggestions that he should repeat the sting against Somerset five days later.
"When I bowled my first over, I didn't even check the scoreboard to see if I went for 12 or more," he said. "All the emotions going through my head, I was just confused about what was going on.
"Because Danish lived next to me he always gave me a lift home. It was late, it was three o'clock in the morning or something like that. He had two friends in the car as well and they had a black bag and they gave it to me with money.
"The next couple of days we went up to Somerset and they tried to get me to do that game as well but I said no definitely not this time. I was worried obviously if someone finds out a what's going to happen to me and I love cricket and... I didn't want to lose my career and obviously that Durham game has cost me my career."
He also relates how he was summoned back to Essex's HQ at Chelmsford after a training session by the coach, Paul Grayson. Essex - in a meeting with Grayson, the chief executive David East and captain Mark Pettini - initially told him that they intended to deal with the affair in house. Westfield's transgression only became public knowledge six months the event took place.
Westfield was banned from professional cricket for five years, and club cricket for three years. In recognition of his willingness to help the PCA with its anti-corruption education programme, an ECB appeal panel in June reduced his ban from club cricket by a year, meaning he will be able to play again next season.
He will also appear at the PCA's rookie camp, for new professionals, in February and at PCA pre-season meetings with each of the 18 first-class counties next March.
"I'm not trying to tell people to feel sorry for me… because what I've done is bad but not being able to play or coach any cricket is a massive shock for me," he said. "I just want to rebuild my life.. and try and get back on track. If I can give back to anyone - kids, older people it doesn't matter to me - as long as I can give something back."
Jason Ratcliffe, PCA assistant chief executive, said: "Mervyn recognizes that he did wrong and that the time is right to make amends within the cricket community to ensure nobody makes the same mistakes. His moving interview is the first step of the education process and should serve as a timely reminder to all, that cricket and other sports will not let up in the fight against corrupters."
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