Westfield Conviction & A Question I Dread To Ask…

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.

10 thoughts on “Westfield Conviction & A Question I Dread To Ask…”

  1. I’m not trolling, but how did you feel about the rebel tour Gooch went on? If Gooch knew about the match-fixing but did nothing, won’t it put him on the same level of Mushtaq Ahmed?

    Should the ECB have waited a while further before announcing that Gooch is to be the full-time England batting coach as they did today?

    For me the greatest anger is directed at the club for not being forthcoming and open about the entire affair from the very start (Ray East should in all probability resign as chief executive) and Wanstead CC for playing Merv Westfield throughout the entirety of last season.

    I’m relieved though that this information is finally public.

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for dropping by and for commenting. The 1982 rebel tour is something I am very uncomfortable with (as a 10 year old when it happened I had no real clue about things) but IIRC it was organised by Dr Ali Bacher, who is now somewhat revered in South Africa – that might lend some credence to claims of genuine intention of doing good? It’s certainly not a high point in the careers of Gooch or anyone else on the tour. I would hope that they would say if they had their times again they would not go.

      I fear you’re right with the Mushtaq point and yes, the ECB should have waited before announcing Gooch had the full time role. It also looks a very poor piece of judgement by Wanstead in playing him last season.

      My gut feeling yesterday was that heads should roll at Essex. After contemplation that opinion still holds. Full and frank disclosure first, followed by grovelling apology and then resignations.

      I’d love to know how people closer to and more involved with the club are reacting to events.

      1. Ray East needs to resign, the chairman should probably go too (they didn’t even bother responding to cricinfo’s inquiries about their reactions to the Morgan report).

        I also think Foster should probably step down for the good of the club too, and Essex should probably promote Bopara from vice-captain to captain, I think he’d do a good job of leading from the front and getting people to talk about Essex’s performances on the pitch.

        Just as an aside, the rebel tours are all given first-class and list-a status, yet world series cricket games have not been. Where’s the justice in that?

        1. I agree completely. Something isn’t right there. Don’t get me started on WSC, it really irritates me that WSC doesn’t get first class or List A status. Sir Viv Richards called it the hardest cricket he ever played. That’s good enough for me.

  2. Match-fixing is a sensitive issue…perhaps, the coach and players were too stunned at the open nature of Kaneria’s (alleged) boasts…and were not sure if he was joking or not…Without any proof, was there anything else they could have done different?

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

      In the few years I managed to play club cricket I’ve seen people taken aside and advised to refrain from certain behaviours in the presence of junior players. I have also done that myself. I believe that older and senior players are role models to younger players; it stuns me to see that Essex were not actively ensuring that senior players were the role models they should have been.

      It also stuns me that nobody at Essex took Kaneria aside and warned him in no uncertain terms to shut up, never mind make concerns clear to the authorities. Given that the ICC warned Kaneria in 2008 about his links with bookies there is form there for Essex to cite.

      One can only hope now things are starting to come out into the open there is full disclosure.

  3. Hi Yates
    First, apologies because I said I would comment on this a week or so ago. Tempus fugit and all that.

    I write, like you, as someone who grew up supporting Essex and worshipping Gooch and the rest of the late 80s/early 90s era. They remain “my team” though I now live in London.

    I understand your anger and agree that from a PR point of view it would make sense for Essex to hold a clear-the-air press conference on all issues that have arisen from the court revelations. The club’s decision to say nothing when there was a criminal investigation on was defendable, but their silence since is arrogant and insulting to their supporters. Allegations have been made, they should be answered.

    But I am concerned that you are calling for apologies and heads to roll because of events that may not even be true or have been overspun.

    We have no idea of the manner, timing and frequency of the alleged offers by Kaneria to other players and given that these were put forward by Westfield’s defence team in mitigation for a lower sentence, I don’t see why we should take them seriously.

    If there was any allegation that a player had taken him up on it, that would be a different matter. I fear that we stray dangerously into thoughtcrime if we condemn people for what they say rather than what they do.

    As has been claimed by others, the standard way in which a fixer tests the water is in a jokey way, allowing the chance to pull back if the victim doesn’t bite. Without knowing exactly what Kaneria said and how he did it, I can understand why it was just ignored. Why open a can of worms over a stupid remark?

    Also, Kaneria’s English for all his time in Essex is not all that great and quite heavily accented. I’m not sure his team-mates would even have paid close attention.

    Perhaps someone senior should have told Kaneria that jokes like that were unacceptable – and perhaps they did, we simply do not know the full truth.

    I make the comparison with a hypothetical work situation in which a colleague jokes about taking drugs at the weekend and says he can get you some cocaine if you want it. You say you’re not interested and he says he was only joking. What do you do then? Maybe you would report him. I’d just ignore it, especially if he were a valuable member of staff. Why rock the boat over something that hasn’t happened? Even if you suspect the colleague is a druggie – as Essex may have suspected Kaneria – is it really worth pursuing something that doesn’t directly affect you? I wouldn’t.

    The six months taken between Westfield showing Palladino the money and a report being made is another thing and I agree with the Hopps allegation that Palladino may be less of a saint than painted but again without full details of what was said and the timeline, I can easily shrug it off. The key thing is it was reported and a man is in jail.

    I feel a bit for Palladino. A fringe player, he may have felt that his career would be in jeopardy if he dobbed on a senior player. The way Essex cast him off on loan to Kent once the story broke suggested that he was not welcome in the dressing room with some. But if he was confronted with evidence that Westfield had received money for fixing, he should have reported it. There was more burden on him to do that than on those who heard fixing “banter”.

    I think your allegation, based on no evidence whatsoever, that Gooch may have had knowledge of match-fixing and been complicit in a cover-up is grossly unfair. Like you, I would be devastated if Saint Goochie were smeared, but don’t do the devil’s work for him. There has been no claim anywhere of Gooch having knowledge of this.

    I guess my main point is don’t believe everything a lawyer says to get his client off. Don’t assume things have happened or happened in a certain way when there is no evidence. Two corrupt players does not make a corrupt county.

    It would be nice if David East came and talked honesty about all this, though. The Essex chief exec, who was also happy to brush under the carpet a serious sexual harrassment case involving an employee recently, doesn’t seem to believe in disclosure or the buck stopping with the boss.‎

    1. Hi Patrick,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Means a lot to me.

      My working background is one where conduct had to be seen to be of the highest order with no suggestion of impropriety, so I may be a little naive to expect something similar everywhere else. Professionally some might call me a bit stiff (I think that’s the correct colloquialism, hope you know what I mean if not).

      My question comes from thoughts bouncing around in the immediate aftermath of the Westfield trial and is nothing more than a brainflow. It’s certainly not intended to be an allegation, slur or anything similar about Goochie. I should have made that much clearer at the time of writing – thanks for bringing me up on that.

      God knows the DF Magnum swinging hero-worshipping teenager inside me (I still see myself as 17 some days, 77 others) will believe that there’s no flies on his sainted hero until convinced otherwise.

      You’re dead right in saying two corrupt players don’t make a corrupt county. Statements have been made and questions have been asked in court so are now public record, however true they may actually be may be. Answers are sorely needed. Honest ones, ideally in the form of an independent investigation.

      If senior figures are then found to have been derelict in their duty then yes, I do think heads should roll.

      Your mention of a serious sexual harrassment case being swept under the carpet at the club does not rest well here or, I fear, bode well for the future. It’s a mess and I hope it gets sorted out sooner rather than later.

      If you’re ever at the Kia Oval, drop me a tweet, I’d be delighted to buy you a drink.

  4. Thanks Mike. Covering Surrey v Durham at the Oval at the end of April. Drop me a DM if you’re going to be there and we can have a beer and bemoan fading glories at Chelmsford.

Comments are closed.