Yates writes this entry with a heavy heart and a sense of dread. When Yates says that Essex are a club which he had supported for 30 years until moving south of the River Thames you may understand why.
Yesterday’s sentencing of Mervyn Westfield will be remembered more for the explosive revelations made in the run up to lunch more than the fact that Westfield got a 4 month sentence. Those following Richard DJ Edwards’ excellent live Tweeting of the sentencing saw bombshell after bombshell land which must surely have a devastating effect on Essex cricket in particular.
Yates would like to raise his glass to Richard for his fine efforts (his Telegraph report is here) in this and the Pakistan Three case previously. The courts are also to be commended for allowing tweeting of these cases; their impact on cricket is not to be underestimated, so getting the proceedings out spin-free into the public domain as quickly as possible is of major importance to the game.
That Danish Kaneria was named as Westfield’s corrupter came as no real surprise. The PCB have refused to consider him for international selection on ethical grounds since Kaneria’s acquittal on spot fixing charges in 2010, which Kaneria has challenged in Pakistan courts. The PCB had told Kaneria to produce a transcript of the relevant Essex police case file which appears not to have been forthcoming. These latest developments will surely bury any hope Kaneria has of playing for his country again. Indeed, the ECB are reported to be considering an investigation into Kaneria’s role and could legally ban Kaneria from all cricket worldwide if they find evidence to do so.
It is Essex cricket that has taken one hell of a beating here. Revelations that talk of match fixing in front of the coach Paul Grayson, captain Mark Pettini, vice-captain James Foster and opening bowler David Masters went on and that nothing was done about it left Yates stunned beyond belief. And, it has to be said, pretty much useless at work yesterday afternoon.
The length of time taken to report Kaneria once Westfield had shown his loot to Tony Palladino – six months – must also be seen as shocking. Yates has been doing some outreach work with youngsters recently. Had jokes about paedophiles and children been made then you can bet there would have been rockets fired up the Yates posterior, if not the “You’re fired!” message coming down from on high. So how talking openly about match fixing and meeting bookmakers can be tolerated without any censure is bewildering and bemusing.
It is a sad comment on the Essex dressing room. In truth Yates had long gone off his “adopted” county by the time seeing James Foster’s conduct towards umpires in a couple of televised games confirmed it. But even with that said, Yates feels sullied, tainted and tarnished that the county he supported for most of his life could be complicit in this. The Essex membership have even more right to feel betrayed and incensed.
The more Yates thinks about this, the more his mind comes to focus on one question.
Graham Gooch has been batting coach at Essex for a long time, on and off. Gooch is someone Yates admired through his young and teenage years, a player he aspired to be like. Even typing this question is hard. But it needs to be asked.
Did Graham Gooch know about or see any of any of this match fixing talk? Was he complicit in its tolerance?
Yates may be a grown man but if the answer to either question is yes then that part of his heart that is forever a young blonde haired lad swinging a Duncan Fearnley Magnum will be shattered.
On Twitter, George Dobell reminded us to consider what happened to Don Topley, Chris Lewis and Zulqarnain Haider when they went public with allegations of match fixing. Here is ESPNCricinfo’s report on the Topley story. One should note that Don’s son Reece is coming on nicely as a young player at Essex and is a future England prospect.
David Hopps takes no prisoners in his assessment of the situation that now faces Essex. His last sentence should be a starting point for the club. Full disclosure and total honesty is surely the right thing for the club to do.