By Charles Randall
4 July 2013
Mervyn Westfield has been cleared to resume club cricket at Wanstead & Snaresbrook CC next season after his ban was reduced to two years. Many in the club game will feel that justice has been done.
Westfield, now 25, pleaded guilty at The Old Bailey in 2012 for accepting illegal payments from the subcontinent gambling fraternity when playing for Essex. He spent eight weeks in Belmarsh prison and was handed a five-year ban by the ECB from all cricket, an unnecessarily long period for an amateur club player.
His apparent co-operation with the ECB early this year to provide evidence against Danish Kaneria in a process that confirmed the Pakistani's life ban from cricket for corruption clearly influenced his appeal at the International Dispute Resolution Centre in London. One could assume an understanding or a deal was struck by the ECB to have a harsh sanction reduced, but there was no indication that Westfield ever gave evidence in Kaneria's appeal.
The ECB chief executive David Collier conceded that without Westfield's input the corrupt actions of Kaneria might not have been exposed and he confirmed that a line had been drawn under the Wanstead player's case. "The ECB will support Mr Westfield’s efforts to rehabilitate himself and as part of this process hopes that he can raise awareness of the dangers of corruption in cricket," Collier said.
The Professional Cricketers' Association gave support to Westfield after his release from prison and through them he issued a moving statement after the reduction of his club ban. "I'm sorry for what I've done. I just want to put it right now and help identify the clear dangers that exist. Cricket has been my life since I was six and it’s all I know, what I love and what I live for. I have missed playing so much."
Westfield continued: "I hope people can forgive my actions and maybe even find it in themselves to understand how difficult I’ve found it to cope with every step of this affair. I will now do all I can to help PCA and others, to educate cricketers, especially young ones to ensure nobody has to go through what I have."
Westfield committed himself to working with the Professional Cricketers' Association in creating tutorials, attending pre-season meetings and the annual mandatory 'rookie camp'.
Jason Ratcliffe, for the Association, said: "We respect the appeal panel’s decision to uphold the five-year ban from professional cricket but appreciate bringing forward the time when he can integrate back into club cricket. His personal insight will now complement our existing anti-corruption tutorials and be one of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against corruption within cricket. There is nothing more powerful that player testimony, as we've found with our Mind Matters tutorial programme which covers a multitude of social issues."
Yasin Patel, Westfield's barrister, commented: "The reduction in sentence was just and right in light of the assistance Mervyn has provided in giving evidence at the disciplinary and appeal tribunals."
The ECB chairman Giles Clarke made scathing comments about Kaneria after the confirmation of his life ban. "We note, with regret, that Mr Kaneria has neither made any admission of guilt nor expressed any remorse for his corrupt actions, despite the weight of evidence against him and the fact that, after two lengthy hearings, his guilt has now been resoundingly established on two separate occasions by two separate independent panels."
He added: "It is high time that Mr Kaneria came clean about his involvement in these corrupt activities and stopped misleading the Pakistan cricket fans and wider public with his empty protestations of innocence. We urge him to apologise publicly for his past actions and to start the process of redeeming himself by supporting the Pakistan Cricket Board’s anti-corruption initiatives and assisting the police and law enforcement bodies in the Asian subcontinent with the vital job of exposing and cutting off the primary source of cricket corruption, namely the illegal bookmakers such as those referred to in the appeal panel’s findings in this case."
With a reference to Westfield's exposed position as a young player, Clarke said: "The appeal panel’s findings in this case clearly confirm the disciplinary panel’s finding that Mr Kaneria acted as a recruiter of potential ‘spot-fixers’ and used his seniority and international experience to target and corrupt a young and vulnerable player. The ECB will continue to advocate the need for the strongest possible deterrent sanctions for anyone found guilty of such conduct. Such sanctions are vital for the protection of the integrity of our great game. We trust that the decision will serve as a stark reminder to all professional cricketers and those involved in professional cricket of the life-changing consequences of corruption and the importance of immediately reporting any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities."