Mervyn Westfield has opened up about his stint in Belmarsh Prison, describing his experiences of the Category A institution nothing short of "hell".
The disgraced cricketer, who received a four-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to spot-fixing charges, carried out his time last year. As reported by The Guardian, the former Essex star suffered heavily for accepting a bribe to bowl in a way that would allow the opposition to rack up simple runs:
I didn't know anything about Belmarsh (prison) and I found out (when I was in there) my dad had cancer. My solicitors ran it by me. They said it was double A category jail and the most secure jail in Europe. All the high risk people go there. I was wondering why am I going there? My time in Belmarsh was hell for me. They tell you what you can do and what you can't do. What time you eat and what time you go back into the room, what time you can come out for exercise, what time you have a shower. I didn't shower any more.
Westfield named former Essex teammate Danish Kaneria as the party who pressured a payment of £6,000 into his hands. The money, which came from a bookmakers, was exchanged for an intentionally poor performance from Westfield against Durham in 2009.
Kaneria has fiercely denied he was involved with such dealings, but unfortunately for the 32-year-old leg-spinner, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) banned him from playing the sport professionally for life in 2012. As reported by BBC Sport, Kaneria failed to overturn his ban in July 2013.
The experienced player's demise adds to a difficult era of cricketing problems for Pakistan. Back in November 2011, star names Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were jailed for spot-fixing during a vital Test match at Lord's, as confirmed by Paul Kelso of The Telegraph.
For Westfield, the decision to go public over his time in Belmarsh is another step along the road to redemption. The 25-year-old has recognised a critical error of judgement and is setting his sights on aiding the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA), as per The Guardian’s report:
"I'm sorry for what I did. It was not in the spirit of cricket. I understand what I've done was a big mistake and I regret it. What I've done is bad but I want to rebuild my life and help the PCA."
Recognising Westfield’s dedication to bettering himself, an ECB panel recently reduced his club cricket ban by one year, as reported by the Express. Offering his time to the PCA’s anti-corruption programme, Westfield will be able to resume non-first-class cricket from April 2014.
Such a turnaround will do little to save the career of a player who has permanently damaged his image. While it is admirable that Westfield wishes to use his spare time for the good of cricket, his decision to align himself with the recent run of sporting cheats is both irreversible and impossible to shake off.