The cricket player was banned for fixing matches in 2012. Now he claims he was framed because he was a Hindu, and confessed only because his life was threatened.
by Massimo Introvigne
Cricket is immensely popular in Pakistan. The name of Danish Kaneria, although unknown to those who do not follow the sport, is still well remembered there. He played repeatedly for Pakistan’s national cricket team between 2000 and 2010. From 2004, he also played for Essex in the England County Championship.
Then in 2010, his world collapsed. He was involved in an international match-fixing and betting scandal and banned for life from playing professional cricket in 2012. He claimed he was innocent until 2018, when he publicly admitted the charges.
This happened five years ago and seemed to have brought the Kaneria case to a close. Now, however, Kaneria himself has told a different story in an interview published on October 29. Kaneria is a Hindu, and he claims that teammates in Pakistan’s national team tried to convert him to Islam, threatening retaliation if he would refuse.
“Many big players in the Pakistani team asked me to convert to Islam, [long-time Pakistan national team’s captain] Shahid Afridi was the main one among those players.” After he refused, he said, “I was wrongfully trapped in a false allegation of spot-fixing.”
But why did he confess in 2018? He was receiving death threats, he claims, and he was told in so many words that he would not have a normal life if he would not confess. “I confessed because I was receiving threats, my bank accounts were frozen, everything was sealed illegally, and I had no choice but to accept their terms for the sake of my family’s survival.” He maintains that what is true is only that, through other players, he met a bookmaker called Anu Bhat, a main figure in the match-fixing scandal. But he says he did not fix any match.
Kaneria realizes that many would not believe him. His cricket career ended anyway. He told interviewers that for him it is now more important to denounce the anti-Hindu and anti-religious-minorities climate prevailing in Pakistani sport than to persuade the public opinion that he was innocent. Recalling his days as a player in Pakistan’s national team, Kaneria said that as a Hindu, “Whatever I have faced in the Pakistani Cricket Team is horrific. They hurled religious abuses at me. They abused my deities…”