MUMBAI: When you meet a legspinner who’s taken 261 wickets in 61 Tests (I’d have taken at least 500 if I was still playing, he says), you’d want to talk to him about his art, the mystique of which has always fascinated connoisseurs of cricket. Unfortunately, when you sit with Danish Kaneria – Pakistan’s fourth-highest wicket-taker (and the most successful spinner ever), the topic centres around just one thing – fixing, a charge which destroyed his career, for good perhaps.
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For the past four years, ever since the 35-year-old was banned by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for life for allegedly indulging in spot-fixing in a NatWest Pro40 game while playing for Essex against Durham, Kaneria has been fighting a vain battle to ‘restore his honour’ and return to the game but has received ‘little help’ from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the International Cricket Council (ICC).
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The leggie is currently in India on a “religious trip.” Only the second Hindu to play for Pakistan after Anil Dalpat, Kaneria has so far visited Shirdi, Trimbakeshwar, Siddhivinayak, Mahalaxmi and Mumbadevi temples during his visit. “I plan to go to the land of my forefathers, Surat too,” Kaneria tells TOI during an exclusive interview.
The trial was biased against me, since they (ECB) seemed to have struck a deal with Westfield to protect him. When I told them that my father was suffering from cancer, the ECB attorney said ‘we don’t care whether your father lives or dies.’ Such was their attitude.
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There’s speculation brewing back home that the tainted cricketer now wants to move to India for good. “This is such loose talk. I’ve received so much love in Pakistan, it is just that the PCB has discriminated against me. If I wanted to seek asylum here, why would I leave my kids behind in Karachi. I’ve come here with my mother and wife,” he shoots off. He does see a ray of hope emerge from this trip too. “I’ve got so much love from India every time I come here. Though I’m not scheduled to meet any BCCI officials, I won’t mind meeting them on this trip. I appeal to the Indian board to help me out, because they’ve the power to do so,” he pleads.Kaneria turns emotional while reliving his ordeal ever since his fellow Essex teammate Murray Westfield (a fast bowler) named him as the man who introduced him to Anu Bhatt, an Indian bookie, during an ECB trial in 2012. Westfield pleaded guilty to the charge and was let off, while Kaneria was banned for life for not admitting to his alleged “match irregularities.”
“The trial was launched two years after the Scotland Yard cleared me. It was biased against me, since they (ECB) seemed to have struck a deal with Westfield to protect him.”
Kaneria adds, “During the trial, when I told them that my father was suffering from cancer, the ECB attorney said ‘we don’t care whether your father lives or dies.’ Such was their attitude.”
“The PCB toed the line of ECB, and banned me too. Ironically, the (in)famous spot-fixing scandal of 2010 in England came after I was pulled out of the Pakistan team at ECB’s insistence, despite having provided the PCB all documents to prove my innocence. Salman Butt , Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir were supposed to be the ambassadors of the game, but look at what they did,” he says, while slamming the move to end the bans of the trio.
“You’ve now given an example to a teenage cricketer that even if you get caught doing this, you can be let off on grounds of sympathy,” he points out. Perhaps, the ICC took a lenient view on the matter since they pleaded guilty to their crime. “Did they have a choice? They were caught red-handed. Why should I admit what I haven’t done,” he scoffs at the suggestion.