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Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Cronje leaves unfinished business
Frans Cronje
Cronje's brother Frans, right, after identifying the body

Match fixing and cricket corruption was always beyond the immediate comprehension of the majority of South Africa's sporting population.

But death is perfectly clear, particularly in this part of the world.

From the mansions with servants to the townships where the servants lived, people knew who Hansie Cronje was.

They may have known little or nothing about cricket, but they knew this man. They knew his face and they knew his name.

For that reason, his death in a ghastly plane crash has caused an even greater sense of stunned disbelief than his confession, 26 months ago, that he had taken bribes from bookmakers to alter the course of matches.

Hansie Cronje
Hansie Cronje - a South African idol who fell from grace
Tributes in South Africa have been understandably sympathetic, reflecting the shock of a nation and remembering his undoubted skills as a cricketer and, especially, a captain.

But the weight of sympathy and the sheer column inches was the result of something other than regret and shock. It was the outpouring of a country with unfinished business.

Too many people had not made a satisfactory peace with their one-time idol.

Even non-cricket fans had found themselves asking questions since Cronje's confession and those questions will remain unanswered.

The level of anguish at his tragic death increased more and more amongst those who had closer dealings and contact with him.

Mixture of emotions


In short, the country and Cronje were getting ready to kiss and make up. Instead, Hansie died. No kiss, no hug. Not even a handshake.
Neil Manthorp
Percy Sonn, president of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, personified all those dealing with an impossible mixture of emotions.

Shock, sadness, regret and anger swirled with a fraught fear of hypocrisy as the legally trained 'tough nut' leader of South African cricket faced television cameras to speak of his emotions and offer condolences.

For 18 months Cronje had fought his life ban, refusing to accept that his punishment was just and determined to overturn it. The public endured the story and then began to resent it.

When Cronje's last throw of the dice, an appeal in the High Court in September 2001, descended to the level of a gloveless street fight, Sonn responded with similar tactics - and won. It was horrible.

But finally, when the appeal was dismissed, Cronje appeared to have accepted and come to terms with a new life outside cricket.

Kiss and make-up

Cronje's death has stunned South Africa
Cronje's body is taken off the mountain
There has always been a hardcore band of loyal Cronje supporters in South Africa for whom the former captain is now a martyr, but most people had also begun to feel the healing effects of time in the eight months since the high court case.

In short, the country and Cronje were getting ready to kiss and make up. Instead, Hansie died. No kiss, no hug. Not even a handshake.

There were a lot of people who had wanted to make their peace but now it will never be, but at least he did have some very strong friends.

"There is not a lot you can say when your best friend dies," said a distraught Jonty Rhodes hours after hearing the news.

In the hours and days after his appalling end it seemed only right to remember the kind and generous and skillful side of a complex and intelligent man. His flaws, after all, have filled enough time and space.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Agnew
"It's a tragic end to a tragic story"
Ali Bacher managing director of South African UCB
"I'm devastated"

Cronje dies

The aftermath

Cronje profile

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