Players, pundits remember the late Cronje

Blog Opinion

A plane crash in the Outeniqua mountains ended the life of one of South Africa's most fascinating cricketers on 1 June 2002. Here, we look at what people have said about Hansie Cronje 10 years later.

A plane crash in the Outeniqua mountains, on the picturesque Garden Route, ended the life of one of South Africa's most fascinating cricketers on 1 June 2002.

10 years later, and 11 years after he was found guilty of match-fixing and banned from the game for life, people who knew Hansie Cronje have voiced their memories of the man many still cannot make their minds up about.

Players, pundits and cricket bosses have been asked about their recollections, the lessons learned from the scandal surrounding Cronje, and we've collected some snippets from around the world this week.

<b>Players</b>

Former Proteas seamer <b>Henry Williams</b>, banned for six months after taking part in the scandal, told the <i>BBC</i>: "You can't forget things in life, it's left a permanent scar.

"He [Cronje] never said, 'Sorry for what I did to harm you', or anything.

"He's dead now and he still worries me.

"When they [acquaintances] sit with friends and have parties they will talk about it and say, 'There's that cheat walking'.

"You can feel people talking about you behind your back."

Former South Africa batsman <b>Boeta Dippenaar</b>, who idolised his captain since his school days at Grey College, said in the <i>Times</i>: "He was bit of a pioneer, I think, going out and doing what he did (in terms of motivation).

"But once the natural balance of life was disturbed it was difficult to keep your perspective. I think that's what happened to him."

Former team-mate and current Proteas coach <b>Gary Kirsten</b> said: "He was a great leader of people who had the ability to get the best out of his players."

He added in <i>Sports Illustrated</i>: "I think the ongoing debate will always be centred around whether he personally influenced the outcome of games, or whether he provided information. In all the games I played with Hansie, I never got a sense he was doing things to try and lose the game.

"His desire for the South African team to win remained as strong as ever. He took great pride in us having such a good win-loss record during that time."

Former South Africa spin bowler <b>Pat Symcox</b> in <i>Sports Illustrated</i>: "You could see the pressure he started to feel. At times, teams were selected or pressured in certain directions to facilitate what he was trying to do.

"Those elements only come out when you sit down and really think about it. When you put it together, it ties up, but at that point in time it was hard. For instance, in New Zealand in 1999, I kept saying to him, 'You're making mistakes here and we as a team are suffering because you're not thinking correctly'. It stressed our relationship big time. We had major issues over that."

Former Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman and impending ICC chief executive <b>Dave Richardson</b>: "Until then, most believed the problem, if there was one, was limited to the sub-continent. The King Commission dealt with the matter effectively and unambiguously. The players were investigated, were found guilty and punished.

"Today, no player in international cricket is able to say, hand on heart, he is not aware of the dangers and of his responsibilities. Unfortunately, the corruptors will not leave the players alone, the fight is ongoing."

<b>Higher-ups</b>

<b>Ali Bacher</b>, head of Cricket South Africa at the time of Cronje's trial, said: "A lot of people criticised me for the fact that Hansie was banned for life, although it was an ICC rule, and I believe to this day there is enormous sympathy for him.

"There was no communication between us after we handed it to the government, but he phoned me once. He sounded so bad. He was destroyed."

<b>Professor Tim Noakes</b>, the famous sport scientist, said in <i>Sports Illustrated</i> recently: "The team was very successful for a period, and Hansie became almost a mythical figure.

"But in my view, he was a gifted manipulator. My rule in dealing with him was that I didn't believe anything he said. I knew that was the only way I could protect myself. But I was on the outside of the team. If you were on the inside."

<b>Media</b>

Many columnists have aired their opinion of Cronje's situation, with <b>Rob Houwing</b> of <i>Sport24</i> writing: "There is a curious mix in this country of people quite merciless and unceasingly brutal in their appraisal of his much-publicised failings, and others who are astonishingly defensive over what he got up to in match-fixing terms while in his position of important office.

"I have tended to try to put things in perspective – as one who knew and did like him before his fall from grace – by reminding that whatever the extent of his indiscretion, the man surely did not deserve to die in a plane crash on the Outeniqua Mountains."

Indian website <i>Cricketcountry.com</i> saw columnist <b>Arunabha Sengupta</b> writing: "Some, like sports scientist Tim Noakes, who worked closely with the team under Cronje, brand him as intimidating and afflicted with antisocial personality disorder.

"Team-mates like Herschelle Gibbs have suffered because of him, while Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Lance Klusener have revealed that they had been approached by the captain with hints of compromising performance. Even Nelson Mandela had publicly chastised him.

"Yet, for many of his countrymen, he remains a great captain who had lost his way. His picture continues to hang in the Bell boardroom with the caption Our Hero. His 27-11 win loss record as skipper continues to rank among the all-time best. His 3714 runs in Tests were not spectacular, but his reputation as one of the best players of spin bowling lives on.

"At his funeral, held at his old school Grey College in Bloemfontein, Pastor Dave Hooper summed it up saying, 'All our hearts are aching.'"

Latest