London: Mervyn Westfield, the former Essex bowler, has been sentenced to four months in jail after admitting his role in spot-fixing on a day where a court heard Danish Kaneria, the Pakistan legspinner, named as the alleged go-between who had also approached other players about fixing.
Westfield, 23, was sentenced at the High Court after admitting to accepting £6,000 in return for conceding a set number of runs off an over in a Pro40 match against Durham in September 2009. He will be eligible for release, on license, after serving two months.
"For financial gain, you have betrayed the trust of Essex, players, fans and followers throughout the world in you to play cricket honestly," Judge Anthony Morris said. "Your plea was entered very late in the day. You denied knowledge and lied to police. I have grave doubts whether you are truly remorseful for what has happened."
Before the sentence was handed out it was confirmed that the ECB had banned Westfield from all cricket with immediate effect pending further investigation. Following his release by Essex he had been playing club cricket.
Westfield was paid despite failing to give up the agreed 12 runs - Durham managed just to score 10 from the over, the first of the bowler's spell, in a game which Essex went on to win.
Mark Milliken-Smith QC, defending Westfield, said that Essex players had repeatedly "turned a blind eye" to conversations instigated by Kaneria about spot-fixing and that they had seemingly not taken them seriously. Only after instructions in 2010 from the players' union, the Professional Cricketers' Association, to report any suspicions did attitiudes change.
It was revealed that Kaneria had spoken openly about fixing in the Essex dressing room but Mark Pettini, the former captain, said in a statement that he had not taken the claims seriously. Essex's coach Paul Grayson also admitted he had heard Kaneria's talk of fixing, as had captain James Foster and bowler David Masters, but before seamer Tony Palladino, who now plays for Derbyshire, reported Westfield no players had taken action. Former Essex batsman Varun Chopra, who now plays for Warwickshire, was named as another player who had been approached.
The court was told that the ICC had warned Kaneria in 2008 about his alleged connections with Arun Bhatia, a bookmaker who was being monitored by the anti-corruption unit.
Kaneria was originally arrested along with Westfield in connection with the investigation in 2010 but was released without charge. He has been a regular selection in the Habib Bank and Sind line-ups during the current domestic season. He has not played for Pakistan since the Trent Bridge Test against England in 2010.
Prosecution evidence from Mark Ellkins QC said that Westfield had returned from a party with his then team-mate, Palladino, several days after the Durham match, and had shown him a plastic bag full of £50 notes that he said were proceeds from spot fixing and that Kaneria was the go-between.
But in his initial police interview Westfield denied accepting the money or that Kaneria was involved in the approach. The prosecution then said that Westfield changed his mind in mid-December and decided to plead guilty.
When the defence began to outline mitigation for Westfield Milliken-Smith said the player accepted the "devastating effect" his actions had caused. At one point, Judge Anthony Morris interrupted to say: "It is difficult to accept his total remorse, shame and regret when the defendant has lied on a number of occasions about his involvement in this matter."
When the defence said that Westfield hadn't received anti-corruption training the judge replied: "Did he really need training and education to realise this was a plainly corrupt approach?," to which Milliken-Smith QC, replied "No."
Palladino had been due to be the prosecution's main witness in the case before Westfield decided to admit his crime. After Palladino chose to go to the authorities, Essex police conducted a six-month investigation.