The ECB could face a claim for “very substantial damages” from Danish Kaneria, the banned Pakistan legspinner, after it emerged that its main witness against him continues to refuse to appear at the appeal hearing.
Kaneria was banned for life and charged £100,000 in costs by an ECB disciplinary panel in June 2012 for his part in the spot-fixing case involving former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield. Kaneria had been found guilty of inducing his former Essex team-mate to underperform in a limited-overs game in 2009 and of bringing the game into disrepute. Westfield, who was jailed for his role in the case, gave evidence against Kaneria at the hearing.
As all boards under the governance of the ICC have an agreement to mirror bans imposed in such circumstances, Kaneria’s ban has been effective worldwide.
Kaneria’s appeal hearing was originally scheduled for December but, after the ECB was unable to gain Westfield’s cooperation, it was postponed until April 22. While the ECB’s chances of persuading Westfield to appear at the appeal are waning, it hopes that his evidence from the first hearing will still be admissible.
Kaneria and his lawyers feel that he should be exonerated, however, and are willing to take the case to the High Court. They claim the ECB is delaying the appeal hearing beyond a reasonable period and suggest that, without Westfield’s evidence, the ECB “have no case.”
“The legal principle is this,” Farogh Naseem, Kaneria’s lawyer, told ESPNcricinfo. “If the ECB rely upon a witness, that witness should be available for cross-examination. If he is not, then his evidence can hold no weight. Without him they have no case. Clearly we are taking a different stance on this to the ECB and, ultimately, I expect the matter to be decided by the High Court in London.
“We will definitely seek compensation from the ECB. Not only have the delayed the procedure, but they refused to allow an interim measure until it was decided. Mr Kaneria should have been allowed to continue to play and earn a living while the matter was settled. I don’t want to disclose the figure, but we will seek very substantial damages from the ECB. They have been too harsh and delayed the appeal too long. There is a great level of guilt on the ECB.”
Kaneria, 32, is the fourth-highest wicket-taker for Pakistan in Test cricket and still harbours hopes of reviving his career.
“It will be a victory for the game of cricket when Mr Kaneria is cleared,” Naseem continued. “He is a young man with a promising career ahead of him and he could be utilised by Pakistan and other teams around the world. As a legspinner, he is the master of a dying art and it is in the interest of the game of cricket that he should play.”
Westfield’s lack of cooperation is a major frustration to the ECB. In retrospect, it may come to reflect that the penalty handed out to him was lacking in incentives to encourage his compliance. As well as a four-month prison sentence, Westfield received a five-year ban from the game, with an ability to return to club cricket after three years. The police felt there was not enough evidence to pursue a criminal case against Kaneria.
Naseem insisted that Kaneria would be happy for Westfield to provide evidence, but also repeated a request for the appeal to be held in public.
“All we want is for everyone to tell the truth,” Naseem said. “In the interests of transparency, we would like to have the hearing in public. We do not have anything to hide and, if the ECB if confident they have a strong case, they should have nothing to hide as well. If they are confident in their case, nothing should stop them having it heard. So why have there been so many months of waiting?
“I cannot tell you why Mr Westfield is not willing to appear. Maybe he has guilt issues; maybe he does not. But Mr Westfield should speak the truth.”