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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
The man who shamed cricket
Cronje
Hansie Cronje died in a plane crash on Saturday
Hansie Cronje will be remembered not for any of the good things he brought to South African cricket, but for the match-fixing which cast a shadow over the sport.

Cronje's reputation was among the finest in world cricket until he was first accused of match-fixing in April 2000.

Born in Bloemfontein, of solid Afrikaner stock, on 25 September 1969, Wessel Johannes Cronje was earmarked as a future South Africa captain from his very first international appearance in April 1991.

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.

Driven to the point of obsession, particularly at challenging Australia for cricketing supremacy, the only criticism of his captaincy used to be that he was too intense.

Hansie Cronje led South Africa to a series win over India in 2000
Cronje led South Africa to a series win over India in 2000

Not once 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, until that bombshell dropped.

He had the best win-ratio of all contempary 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 rapidly became the face of South African cricket.

Dr Ali Bacher, as 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

When the allegations of malpractice were first made Bacher barely questioned them and instantly sided with his captain.

Bacher has since stood down from the post to concentrate on organising the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

But such was Cronje's reputation that the former cricket board chief had no doubts until the former skipper himself admitted to receiving cash.

The amount of disinformation emanating from the subcontinent on matters of match-fixing in the past had also been a factor in Bacher's loyalty, although the signs of Cronje's actions had been there to see in the past.

The sacked captain 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.

cronje
Cronje made his debut as captain against Australia in 1994

"We basically laughed it off," he said afterwards, although he did not inform the South African board.

Television pictures suggested ball-tampering when Cronje was once 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.

Sadly for him, his place in history will now be as a man who was prevented from continuing this career due to dishonesty, and who then died a premature and tragic death.


Cronje dies

The aftermath

Cronje profile

SPORTS TALK

IN PICTURES
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