Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif has defended banned spinner Danish Kaneria, questioning the evidence of spot-fixing against him by claiming that the alleged Indian bookmaker suspected to be close to the bowler has been Pakistan Cricket Board's official guest on several occasions.
According to Latif, the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption and security unit has yet to prove that Indian Arun Bhatt is indeed a professional bookmaker.
"There are glaring ambiguities in the case/evidence prepared against Danish by the England Cricket Board. One of them is that the ECB has described Annu Bhatt as the Indian bookie, associated with Kaneria, but I have not found his name in the list of established India bookmakers," Latif said on Saturday.
He then disclosed that Bhatt, in fact, had been a regular guest of Pakistan Cricket Board.
"He was a guest of the PCB when India and England toured Pakistan in 2005 and 2006 respectively, and he (Annu) stayed in Pakistan as the PCB's guest on both the occasions," Latif claimed.
"Even afterwards, Annu Bhatt toured with the Pakistan team to Sri Lanka, South Africa and the West Indies," he added.
The ECB disciplinary committee banned Kaneria for life last year after an inquiry into a spot-fixing scandal in county cricket when the spinner played for Essex in 2009 against Durham.
The ECB's appeals panel also dismissed Kaneria's appeal but the bowler has now filed another appeal in the commercial court of the United Kingdom against his ban and costs imposed on him.
Latif, the first cricketer to go public on the match fixing menace in 1994 while playing for Pakistan, has now taken up Kaneria's case and strongly believes that the ECB has victimised the leg-spinner who has received no support from the PCB either.
The ECB panel banned Kaneria for life because of the fact that Bhatt was in contact with him on phone and through text messages in 2009 and 2010 and charged him with trying to lure other players namely teammate, Mervyn Westfield into spot-fixing.
Recalling the Essex Vs Durham pro40 encounter, Latif suspected that the match, which led to the inquiry, was seemingly dubious and could be a case of match-fixing rather then spot-fixing.
"Westfield did what he had to for Essex but the way the opposing team (Durham) played was dubious. Why Durham skipper did not let his two opening and most economical bowlers to deliver more than five overs each?" questioned Latif.
"Opening bowler Gidman cost 24 and Claydon gave away 27 runs in five overs, but the captain opted for Borthwick as seventh bowler who went for 63 runs in 4.5 overs. I fail to understand the philosophy behind this strategy," he added.
"The seventh bowler was Borthwick, who is a 19-year old Irish all-rounder. Couldn't he be vulnerable enough to get trapped?" asked Latif.
Latif, who claims to have studied Kaneria's case thoroughly, stated that during the appeal hearing in London, the main ECB witness, Westfield, was reluctant but was forced through the High Court in an 'illegitimate' manner.
"Chris Walsh, the lawyer of the ECB, received an email from Wilf Lusty, the manager of the High Court whose responsibility was to summon Westfield.
"In the mentioned email Mr. Lusty sent the amended order approved by the High Court Justice, Andrew Smith, asking Mr Lusty to draw up a fresh order and email it back to him so that he could seal and return it to Walsh (the ECB lawyer)," claimed Latif
"Can a High Court issue such order in consultation with one of the parties? Did the High Court Judge, who later summoned Westfield, know about these exchanges between his manager or clerk and the ECB lawyer?" Latif questioned.