Spot-fixing still going undetected, fears Fraser

EXCLUSIVE: Former England bowler believes landmark Westfield case was no one-off and other domestic players may have been targeted

FORMER England bowler Angus Fraser believes spot-fixing has infested the domestic game beyond the case which has left former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield facing prison.

Westfield – the first English cricketer to be convicted of spot-fixing ­– is due to be sentenced next month after he confessed attempting, under instruction, to concede 12 runs from the first over of his spell during Essex’s Pro40 match against Durham in September 2009.

Tony Palladino, the former team-mate who blew the whistle on Westfield, feels other county cricketers are involved in betting scams and Fraser, now Middlesex’s managing director of cricket, shares similar concerns.

“The one thing cricket has to be wary of is that if they have got to one person in our domestic game it’s highly likely they’ve got to others too,” Fraser (inset) told City A.M.

“I can’t say that I’ve watched matches and seen anything untoward but maybe I’m a bit naive in the way I watch games.

“But certainly you can’t rule out the fact that there’s a possibility that other things might be taking place. I don’t think it’s rife but I don’t think the game can afford to be in any way complacent.”

Following his confession, Westfield, 23, appears extremely unlikely to have a future in the sport in a playing capacity. Rather than discard him completely, however, Fraser believes the authorities could use him to help educate up and coming players about the pitfalls of spot-fixing.

“I hear he was a talented young guy with a bright future – that it’s all gone is a lesson to everyone,” he added. “He’s gone down a road that has had a big negative impact on his life and, although I’d be resentful were he to make a living out of it, any advice he could impart on young players to reduce the chances of it happening again would be welcomed.

“Players do need to be educated because sometimes you can get involved without even knowing it.

“As a cricketer you meet a lot of people who’ll want to be your best mate and take you out for nice meals and before you know it you’ve answered a few questions you maybe shouldn’t have.”

The ECB reacted swiftly to Westfield’s confession by taking the unprecedented step of opening a three-month amnesty window for players to report any historic approaches from match fixers.

It is an offence under ECB regulations not to report any advances from match fixers, but with the governing body relaxing its stance until 30 April, Fraser believes players will feel more comfortable reporting suspicions they may have held in the past and potentially shopping their team-mates.

“We have to applaud Palladino because what he did was extremely brave. I’m sure he’s going to cop some flak even if it might be jovial,” said Fraser, whose county have agreed a long-term sponsorship deal with wealth management group Brooks Macdonald. “He’s broken, I guess, some kind of sportsman’s code, but you’d like to think the game is more important that any individual.

“Players shouldn’t feel there’s anything wrong in, for want of a better word, dobbing their mates in, but I’m sure the window will make it easier for players to come forward.”

SPOT-FIXING | LANDMARK CASES

MERVYN WESTFIELD
Former Essex fast bowler Mervyn Westfield (left, main pic) faces up to seven years in prison after admitting he accepted a corrupt £6,000 payment in return for conceding 12 runs in the first over of his opening spell in a Pro40 game against Durham in September 2009. In the event, he only conceded 10 runs in the over, including a wide. The 23-year-old is due to be sentenced on 10 February.

BUTT, AMIR AND ASIF
Three former Pakistan international cricketers, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt (above) were jailed in November after they were found guilty of conspiring to deliberately bowl no-balls in the Lord’s Test against England in August 2010. The trio were rumbled after corrupt London-based sports agent Mazhar Majeed, who was also jailed, was caught on camera boasting that he could arrange for the cricketers to rig games for money by now-defunct newspaper the News of the World.

HANSE CRONJE
Former Proteas captain Hanse Cronje (above), voted the 11th greatest South African of all time, was banned for life in 2000 after he admitted to being involved in a series of match-fixing plots. Opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs was also implicated and banned for six months. Cronje died in a plane crash two years later aged just 32.