Spot-fixing February 17, 2012

Kaneria left under the microscope

Less than four months have passed since three of their most celebrated cricketers were jailed and once again Pakistan has been dragged into the murky world of spot-fixing.

Danish Kaneria was not on trial at The Old Bailey, but his name dominated the day as he was presented as the influential figure who led Mervyn Westfield astray.

Kaneria will captain Sind province in the Pentangular Cup final on Friday, and he still protests his innocence, but he now faces the possibility of a disciplinary tribunal in England. Essex police will now hand over the evidence to the ECB which will decide whether to hold its own investigation. The maximum penalty, if Kaneria is found guilty, is a lifetime ban from all cricket worldwide.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Cricket Board told ESPNcricinfo: "We do maintain zero tolerance toward corruption, but since nothing is yet proven against the cricketer the status remains same as it was so he will continue to play the final as captain."

Farogh Naseem, Kaneria's lawyer, played down suggestions that his client had new evidence to answer. "I think we can only take any step once the inquiry is finished," he said. "It is Westfield's words against Kaneria and a lot will depend on what evidences he puts before the court against my client."

Naseem reiterated that Kaneria had been cleared. "At the time of the police inquiry, Kaneria was not charged and cleared," he said. "The ICC cleared him. We feel that Kaneria was discharged in the case."

Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain who has done much to stabilise Pakistan cricket in the wake of the scandal surrounding his predecessor, Salman Butt, and two fast bowlers, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, looked downcast at the courtoom allegations against Kaneraia as he prepared for an ODI against England in Dubai on Friday.

"This is really very disappointing for Pakistan cricket," Misbah said. "I wish that such things would vanish from our cricket. We want to keep away from such things. It's not an issue for us. We have to concentrate on the game, and don't let us bother about that. It should stop now."

The High Court in London heard how Kaneria was the alleged middle-man in a spot-fixing plot which involved Westfield conceding a set number of runs from an over during a televised Pro40 match between Essex and Durham in 2009.

Kaneria was arrested alongside Westfield in 2010 but released without charge and denies all involvement in the scam. At the time the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ruled there was not sufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case.

The High Court also heard how, in 2008, Kaneria was warned by the ICC about his links to a bookmaker called Arun Bhatia, who is believed to live in England, and was told he was keeping "highly inappropriate company."

Kaneria has not played for Pakistan since the 2010 Trent Bridge Test against England after which he was omitted in favour of Saeed Ajmal and fell out of favour. He has continued to play domestic cricket in Pakistan.

Kaneria has persistently pleaded his innocence since the initial arrest and he was selected for a Test series against South Africa in late 2010 before being withdrawn by the PCB because he was not able to obtain the required documentation from Essex police.

Last year he also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court against the PCB's refusal to clear him. The PCB's integrity committee can now obtain the police investigation records against Kaneria.

"His integrity was obviously under observation and this is why we asked him to satisfied the integrity committee," a PCB official told ESPNcricinfo. "He was a bowler we actually wanted to play but there were so many questions that he could never satisfy.

"He always pledged his innocence but was never able to get an Essex police clearance letter. For us the Westfield imprisonment is neither a development nor sign of guilt for Danish, but now we can apply for the transcription of the investigation record from the police."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo; Umar Farooq is Pakistan correspondent