Danish

Born December 16, 1980, Danish Parabha Shanker Kaneria turned 35 on Wednesday. The banned bowler is one of the greatest leg-spinners to have emerged from Pakistan. Having made his debut in 2000 at the age of 20, Kaneria went on to chart a path of success, especially after 2004, and he often played an integral role in spinning his side to victory, more often in subcontinent conditions than not. Amit Banerjee lists seven facts about the bowler whose career went down the drain thanks to corruption.

1. Rare non-Muslim Pakistani cricketer

The biggest and the most well-known fact, more so because of the Islamic nature of Pakistan where Muslims form the dominant majority (more than 95 per cent of the total population), while Hindus and Christians account for around two per cent each of the populace. A total of five Christians (one of whom would later convert to Islam), two Hindus and a Parsi have represented Pakistan, with Kaneria being the second Hindu after Anil Dalpat, who is also Kaneria’s first cousin. Kaneria belongs to the Marwari Hindu community, which is an influential business community in India originally hailing from the state of Rajasthan.

2. Debut

Kaneria’s debut was a memorable one, where he got the wicket of Marcus Trescothick off his very second ball. Pakistan were facing off against England in the second Test at Faisalabad in the 2000-01 season, and Pakistan were bowled out for 316. The English openers Trescothick and Michael Atherton were progressing fairly well until skipper Moin Khan handed the ball to Kaneria, who promptly delivered for his skipper with a googly that foxed Trescothick. Kaneria took only two wickets while conceding 119 runs, and did not fare too well in the remainder of the series. He had however, taken his first step in what would turn out to be a fruitful career ahead.

3. Praise from Richie Benaud

Among the accolades Kaneria has earned in his life so far, praise for his ability to bowl the googly from Richie Benaud would perhaps be the greatest in terms of value. The former Australian cricketer and legendary commentator, who passed away earlier this year, had once said that Kaneria’s googly was one of the best he had ever seen. A compliment of this sort would be a source of great pride for any bowler.

4. Leading Pakistani spinner

Despite the fact that his career was practically over by 2010 (he was only 30 then and had plenty of cricket left in him), Kaneria still stands as the fourth-highest wicket-taker for Pakistan with 261 scalps from 61 matches, behind Wasim Akram (414), Waqar Younis (373) and Imran Khan (362). In terms of Test career wicket-tally, he is ahead of legendary Pakistani spinners such as Abdul Qadir (236), Saqlain Mushtaq (208) and Mushtaq Ahmed (185).

5. Role in spot-fixing scandal

Kaneria’s career unfortunately came to a premature end after he was found guilty of participating in the banned activity of spot-fixing. The incident in question pertains to a Pro40 match between Essex and Durham during the English domestic season in 2009. Kaneria is believed to have approached team-mate Mervyn Westfield with an offer of £ 6,000 for him to bowl badly. Essex police formally initiated investigations into the match in 2010, and Kaneria was indicted by the ECB after Westfield admitted to the offence two years later.

While Westfield was sentenced to four months of prison, Kaneria was banned for life and was ordered to pay an initial fine of £ 100,000. The spinner contested against the fine, and lost, as a result of which his current debt to the England board, including fines and other costs, amount nearly to £ 250,000.

6. ‘Dinesh’ Kaneria

As much as the leg-spinner denied it, or reacted defensively at the slightest suggestion of it, Kaneria was in fact targeted for his religion on a few occasions, whether in plain jest or on a serious level. According to an article by eminent Pakistani journalist Osman Samiuddin, Kaneria was told on his face that his name was ‘Dinesh’ rather than Danish. There would also be those journalists who would call him ‘Saala Hindu’ or ask him to “go back to India” on days when he would have a lean patch.

7. Religious

Though Kaneria peppers his talks with inshallah (which maybe more of a cultural influence), he is a devout Hindu whose roots are near Surat. During the 2005 tour of India, Kaneria told The Telegraph, “Jahan ho sakta hai, wahan main mandir mein zaroor darshan karoonga (Wherever it’s possible I will visit temple and offer my prayers).” He had also admitted visiting a temple in Dharamsala.

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)