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The BBC's Kevin Gearey
"Accused of cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy"
 real 28k

UCB's Dr Ali Bacher
"We are absolutely certain that none of our players have been party to this practice"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
SA government steps into fixing row

Backed up: South African opinion is behind Cronje
The South African government is to ask India for an explanation over the way four of its cricketers, including captain Hansie Cronje, were charged with match-fixing.

According to the United Cricket Board of South Africa, Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad is to "seek an explanation for reports that players' telephones were tapped while they were on an official cricket tour in India".

The government is also concerned over the manner in which the charges against Cronje, Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom were made public on Friday.

I am sure that when further details are available, the innocence of Hansie and the others will be fully proved

Graham Ford, South Africa coach

New Delhi police held a news conference to make public allegations that the four Proteas players fixed matches in last month's one-day series with India.

India won the five-match encounter 3-2. Two Indian men have also been charged, and it is understood that one of them is already in custody.

Meanwhile, South African cricket officials have accused Indian police of making "overhasty" match-fixing charges against captain Hansie Cronje.

And South Africa's press rallied behind the four Proteas accused of corruption, saying that they had been framed.

South Africa coach Graham Ford said in a statement: "We were never approached by any gambling syndicate.
Kepler Wessels
Wessels: Called for an investigation

"The whole story is a storm in a teacup. I am sure that when further details are available, the innocence of Hansie and the others will be fully proved.

"The whole thing is surely nothing more than a misunderstanding."

Indian police said they had a damning tape recording of an alleged conversation between Cronje and one of the Indians charged, Sanjiv Chowla.

A senior South African cricket journalist who has heard the tapes doubted their authenticity and said he believed the whole episode was a hoax.

Trevor Chesterfield, who writes for Pretoria News and the Cricinfo website, said: "My impression was that both voices were of Asian origin.

This thing is rife in cricket and the biggest mistake we could make would be to try to sweep it under the carpet without an investigation

Kepler Wessels, former SA captain

"The voice that was supposed to be Hansie's did not have a South African accent. It was definitely not Hansie's voice. And my conclusion was that the whole thing was a hoax."

South Africa's Saturday Star newspaper continued the theme by asking: "Was Hansie framed ?"

Former captain Kepler Wessels, who has in the past been highly critical of Cronje's captaincy, said the whole issue had probably only arisen because South Africa won the Test series in India.

But he called for an independent inquiry into charges that he described as "too serious" to be brushed aside.
Herschelle Gibbs
Gibbs: Implicated in the scandal

"I'd be astonished if it had happened in this instance," he wrote in the Saturday Star.

"But this thing is rife in cricket and the biggest mistake we could make would be to try to sweep it under the carpet without an investigation."

Influential Christian spiritual leader pastor Ray McCauley - sometimes referred to as the "unofficial" chaplain of the Proteas - also spoke out in defence of Cronje.

"Because I know Hansie as a person of integrity, I cannot believe he would be party to any such allegation", he told The Citizen newspaper.

"I have the highest regard for him and firmly believe that he would not allow himself or his team to be involved in any form of dishonesty."

Cronje himself has spoken out against the charges, saying that they are "without substance".

And the United Cricket Board of South Africa has said it "cannot believe" any of its players were involved in rigging the series.

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See also:

07 Apr 00 | Cricket
SA cricket captain charged
17 Mar 00 | Cricket
Tendulkar ton secures series win
15 Mar 00 | Cricket
SA power to one-day win
19 Mar 00 | Cricket
South Africa made to fight
09 Mar 00 | Cricket
India steal last-over thriller
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