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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
South Africa's fallen hero
Hansie Cronje is a practising Christian
BBC News Online profiles Hansie Cronje, a man once lauded as the ultimate international captain.

Born of solid Afrikaner stock, Hansie Cronje was earmarked as a future South Africa captain from his very first international appearance nine years ago.

An unsmiling and, on the face of it, uncomplicated leader of men, he captained his province, Orange Free State, at the age of 21 and first deputised as national captain at 24 before taking over from Kepler Wessels one year later.
Hansie Cronje fact-file
1987-88: Made his first-class debut for Orange Free State
1991-92: Made Test match debut for South Africa against Windies
1992-93: Hit his maiden Test century against India
1993-94: Had his first taste of Test captaincy, losing to Australia in Adelaide
1994-95: Officially appointed South Africa captain against New Zealand
1995: Joined Leicestershire as overseas player
1999: Captained South Africa to the semi-final of the World Cup in England
Driven to the point of obsession, particularly at challenging Australia for cricketing supremacy, the only sustained criticism of his captaincy was that, on occasions, he had been too intense.

Not once, however, was there even a suggestion that he had resorted to collusion to influence the outcome of a game, or indeed taken money in return for information.

He has the best win-ratio of all current national captains in one-day internationals.

Unchallenged during his five years at the helm and having played in South Africa's first Test match after readmission from sporting isolation in 1992, Cronje, 30, rapidly became the face of South African cricket.

Dr Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCB), made a point of lauding his captain's credentials as a man of unbending moral resolve, particularly as a practising Christian.

Cronje reacted furiously in New Zealand when the UCB attempted to incorporate non-white cricketers clearly not up to international standards as window-dressing for their quota system. He also offered to step down from the captaincy during England's tour of South Africa when form deserted him. Bacher refused.

High esteem

Such was Cronje's reputation, and such has been the disinformation emanating from the subcontinent on matters of match-fixing in the past, that Bacher barely questioned the allegations, siding instantly with his captain.

Cronje admitted in a newspaper interview in 1998 to having been approached by Indian bookmakers offering US$250,000 for the team if they "threw" a one-off international in Bombay in December 1996. "We basically laughed it off," he said afterwards, although he did not inform the South African board.
Cronje made his debut as captain against Australia in 1994
But there have, in the past, been occasions when Cronje has stepped beyond the line of sportsmanship in the pursuit of victory. Twice he has challenged umpires' decision to the point of intimidation.

A crucial run-out decision against Graham Thorpe was reversed in Cape Town - never mind that the umpire had called incorrectly in the first place - and South Africa went on to win the series-deciding fifth Test against England in 1996.

Of greater seriousness, television pictures suggested ball tampering when Cronje was seen to be standing on the ball in a one-day match in Sydney. He also once hurled a stump through an umpire's door in Australia after being angered by a decision.

Despite these instances, however, there were few, if any, outside the subcontinent - particularly in South Africa and Leicestershire where he was the oversees player in 1995 - willing to believe the allegations when they were made.

Players and management were, instead, happier to judge him on his 68 Test appearances and 3,714 runs, not to mention his flawless diplomacy in negotiating the unique problems of the New South Africa.

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