From the publishers of THE HINDU
Vol. 24 :: No. 44 :: Nov. 03 - 09, 2001
BY THE WAY...
Does cricket need this tainted man?TED CORBETT
I WOULD like to show forgiveness towards Hansie Cronje as a correspondent to the letters page of The Sportstar urged a couple of weeks ago. But I don't believe I would be helping Cronje and certainly not cricket.
Our game does not need this tainted man and, in turn, he must learn to live without the lifestyle he has spoiled.
Does he really want to return to face a daily examination of his motives, to be at close quarters when he is accused of the responsibility each time some new offence occurs; to sit in a Press Box or a television gantry and pontificate about the game he once adorned and which he has now besmirched?
Would he not be more useful to the world acting anonymously among desperate people - in Afghanistan to take a blatant example - who have no idea who their new saviour might be? A few acts of personal sacrifice, a charity walk from Oslo to Vladivostok, a bunjee jump for Help the Aged. Then I might forgive him.
What made him think he could return so soon after being kicked out?
It is not the least of the reasons the United Cricket Board South Africa are so pleased his appeal failed. The man has no judgment.
In the days before he was uncovered as the game's greatest rogue he sounded to me - and I met him numerous times after South Africa's return from the wilderness ten years ago - like a reasonable specimen of Homo Sapiens.
Of course, he was not. Whatever persuaded him that he was better off with a few bribery bucks in his pocket rather than the certainty that after his playing career ended he could be anything within reason defies understanding.
He might have been coach to his country's Test team, chief executive to their board, president of ICC, ambassador to the United Nations, the U.N. secretary general, President of South Africa. Fantasy? Not at all. When he led South Africa against England he was as popular as Nelson Mandela. He might have been voted as Mandela's successor if he had chosen to apply for the job.
Cronje had his plea for reinstatement in cricket turned down by the South African High Court and admitted afterwards that his final chance had gone. He cannot have enjoyed the judgment of Justice Frank Kirk-Cohen. It was brutally frank.
"He cast aside the honour of captaining his country for the shadowy pleasures of bookmakers' money," said the judge.
I suspect that when Cronje has time to take in all the results of his infamous behaviour he will come to believe that he is better off seeking new avenues to explore. Let him use what skills he has to search for gold, let him travel solo to Mars, let him trace Livingstone's footsteps through the Congo.
As for associating with sport and particularly youngsters, forget it.
At the very least I hope our game will have no more to do with this unspeakable cricketer who committed the foulest crime save murder and treason. He admitted betraying his own family of sportsmen and in any walk of life selling your nearest short is an offence too vile to discuss.
Cronje's treachery was to betray the first principle on which the game was founded, to push rudely aside the men who had encouraged him, who had shown him that honesty was the only guideline a cricketer needed. They had developed his skills so that he was a hero to South Africans of all creeds, nationalities and colours.
So why should I forgive a man who sold his team and his own wicket - even if, as Bob Woolmer says, he never sold a match - for bookmakers' gold? I would not feel clean if I did and I am glad to say that most of my fellows feel the same.
You can say that the Cronje crime was caused by the modern standards of morality that plunged the game into disrepute long before he met Mukesh Gupta.
The wicket-keeper who runs forward when the bowler signals a slower delivery, the bowler with a bottle top in his pocket, the short leg who appeals believing that the umpire will at some stage fall to the repeated pressure. All these men heralded the birth of Cronje's alliance with bribery and corruption.
The cricketers have been aided and abetted by the officials who spent five years turning a determined blind eye to the blindingly obvious. Weak umpires, malevolent coaches, inexperienced young players in a Test team for the first time, and cynical older players who saw what was happening and went along for the (very profitable) ride.
My own profession which gossiped about corruption hardly comes out of this episode with honour either. How many cricket correspondents set up their own investigations, how many can confess they were not as shocked as Joe Punter when the news flashed round the world that the Delhi police wanted to arrest Cronje, a man hailed as a true South African hero?
None of us. Yes, me as well. We did not commit any crime save sitting indolently by while the corruption grew in front of our eyes.
Those administrators who did nothing about well publicised bets on the result of the 1981 Headingley Test; the Australian failure - backed up by ICC for heaven's sake - to deal publicly with Shane Warne and Mark Waugh and the creeping paralysis that allowed small tournaments to grow and prosper.
All these factors created an atmosphere in which the truly corrupt could throw the old principles of fair play out of the window and invite the bookies to the players' balcony, the nets and the dressing room.
It may have begun with the decline in the custom of walking; "helping the umpire" as it used to be called. It seems that in cricket's distant past the professionals in England decided that "walking" was the only way to conduct their matches but that when the overseas cricketers arrived - with their different social strata, their disrespect for umpires and their determination to play every game as if war had been declared - a change began.
"Walking" was not part of their culture and now it is not among the unwritten laws in any country. That led down the steep slope to Cronje's philosophy of the disposable result.
And if it had not been dealt with severely - cruelly even - cricket would be in a greater pickle than it is right now.
In the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 Ben Johnson won the 100 metres triumphantly and was found to have taken drugs. He was all but frog marched to the airport, disowned by his adopted country Canada and banned for life. Two years later he won a sympathetic reprieve. Not surprisingly he tested positive for drugs again.
Athletics seems to have learned the lesson as baseball did in the notorious case of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and his mates who sold the World Series. They were booted out and no more has been heard of corrupt matches in that sport.
I spent time in the 1960s chasing First Division footballers alleged to have thrown games - mostly in Yorkshire where I worked - but once several had been sent to prison the game was cleaned up forever. Well, almost forever.
Actually, cheating goes back to the early 18th century when cricket was everyman's betting medium and back to the first Olympic wrestlers who were flogged for wiping oil on their skins.
More recently, Danny Almonte became the first pitcher for 44 years to throw a "no hitter" in the Little League for Under-12s by hurling the ball at 70 miles an hour. His team from the Bronx came third in the World Series but his rivals were suspicious and, after spending 10,000 dollars on a private detective, discovered he was 14.
The nasty irony is that the search has unearthed so many lads giving false ages that the romantic concept of the Little League has died forever.
So we must be strong whenever the Cronje's are discovered or we will finish up, like the old Olympians, in the depths of decadence. The 21st century equivalent is a game without sponsors, with television transmitting ballroom dancing or ice skating or judo to entertain the masses, with even smaller crowds.
In England that would mean only half a dozen county teams and an even worse Test team.
That's another reason why I cannot forgive Cronje, who should have been floating above Everest, but who can now only see the gutter above him with the aid of a pair of binoculars.
Contents Daily Sports The Hindu Business Line Frontline Home
Copyrights © 2001 The Sportstar
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Sportstar.