Disgraced Cronje sacked
... Former S.A. captain admits taking money from bookmaker
By Telford Vice
April 12, 2000
DURBAN, SA, (Reuters) - Disgraced South African captain Hansie Cronje yesterday admitted receiving money from an Indian bookmaker in the worst scandal in the history of cricket.
A decade of simmering allegations centred around the sub-continent's illegal betting industry exploded into the open as Cronje confessed to taking money during a limited overs series with Zimbabwe and England.
"We in South African cricket are shattered. The UCBSA and the government have been deceived," United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) managing director, Ali Bacher, told a news conference after the announcement that Cronje had been sacked.
Indian police had charged Cronje and team-mates Nicky Boje, Herschelle Gibbs and Pieter Strydom on Friday with "cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy" during a one-day series in India last month.
Cronje immediately denied accepting money during that series and was backed by the UCBSA who called him a "man of enormous integrity and honesty".
But yesterday Cronje admitted that he had not been "entirely honest" in his denial.
He said he had accepted $10-15,000 from a local South African and an Indian bookmaker based in London during the triangular home series with Zimbabwe and England in January. He had taken the money home but not deposited it in a bank. Asked at the news conference what details Cronje had been asked for by the bookmaker, Bacher said he understood it was "providing information and forecasting" and said Cronje continued to deny charges of match-fixing.
"CHEATING, FRAUD AND CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY"
Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour said at a news conference Cronje had denied the other three players were involved in match-fixing.
"I never spoke to a single player about throwing a match," Balfour quoted Cronje as saying.
"I wish to apologise to all South Africans, the team, especially the particular players singled out, the United Cricket Board of South Africa, the government as well as my wife and family for my involvement in the matter as spelt out."
Cronje sat beside the minister, silent, tense and unsmiling during the news conference.
The player will now find himself an outcast in the sports-mad republic where he was hugely respected for his part in South Africa's re-emergence from years of apartheid isolation.
Bacher confirmed Cronje had been withdrawn from the national team for a three-match limited overs series against Australia starting in Durban today. Vice-captain Shaun Pollock will lead the side instead.
Pollock said Gibbs and Boje, still in the squad for the series against Australia, were obviously affected by the scandal. Strydom, who was already out of squad due to poor form, has denied any involvement in match-fixing.
Strydom told Reuters by telephone from Port Elizabeth: "I emphatically deny that I have ever had any dealings with a bookmaker or that I have received any instructions from a captain to bowl badly or give my wicket away cheaply."
Bacher said the UCBSA had no power to fire Cronje, but said his contract had been suspended pending further inquiries.
Kepler Wessels, Cronje's predecessor as South Africa's captain, said the scandal had caused irreparable damage.
"I think it is very sad. It is an absolute disaster for South African cricket and will be very hard to bounce back from," Wessels told Reuters.
"I was concerned once I realised where the allegations were coming from but I never in my wildest dreams believed that South African cricketers would be involved in this kind of thing."
As South Africa prepared at the Kingsmead ground in Durban for the matches against Australia, Pollock said: "A lot of us were shocked (about Cronje).
"It is a blow for us and we just have to refocus. I am going to go out there and try and do the best job I can. He is a top-class player and he is going to be a hard person to replace."
Australia's team manager Steve Barnard told the AAP news agency in Durban that the match-fixing scandal had reduced the three-match series to a sideshow.
SHADOW OVER SERIES
"People aren't talking about the cricket. They are talking about this controversy. It is a shadow over the series. This takes some gloss away," Barnard said.
Balfour's spokesman Graham Abrams said the government was stunned by Cronje's admission.
"This has come as a bit of a shock to the South African government. We always believed in the honesty and integrity of South Africa's sportspersons. We are totally opposed to corruption," Abrams said.
Cronje, whose team lost 3-2 to India last month in the one-day series also under suspicion, had issued a vigorous defence of his innocence on Sunday.
"I want to make it 100 per cent clear that I deny ever receiving any sum of money during the one-day international series," he said at a news conference then.
"I want to make it clear that I never spoke to any member of the team about throwing a game."
Cronje squanders precious heritage
By John Mehaffey
LONDON, England, (Reuters) - Hansie Cronje destroyed more than his own reputation yesterday by admitting he had taken up to $15 000 from an Indian bookmaker.
In a calamitous day for himself and his sport, the former South Africa cricket captain also dishonoured a republic rarely loved but always respected in the sporting arena.
Cronje, 30, who has denied any involvement in match-fixing, had assumed the mantle reluctantly discarded by rugby captain Francois Pienaar as South Africa's sporting ambassador-at-large.
After Pienaar, captain of the 1995 World Cup champions, had been dropped from the national side Cronje became the country's most prominent sportsman.
Tall and elegant in appearance and style, Cronje had been a fixture in the national side since the republic's return to international sport eight years ago.
He succeeded Kepler Wessels as national captain in 1994 and in partnership with the innovative English coach Bob Woolmer built South Africa into the world's best one-day side and a Test side capable of defeating everybody but Australia.
Cronje embodied the grit and resilience of the Afrikaaner. He never surrendered his wicket and expected the same of his team-mates. Although a handsome strokemaker, reminiscent in his more expansive moods of the former Australia captain Greg Chappell, runs were always more important than style.
Cronje behaved impeccably off the field and was an ideal envoy for his country as it struggled to find an identity in the post-apartheid era.
VOLCANIC PASSIONS ALWAYS PRESENT
Yet volcanic passions always seethed behind the ice-cold exterior.
He was named as the culprit when a souvenir stump was thrust through the umpires' dressing room door after a Test in Australia.
Australian television film also showed Cronje rolling the ball under his foot during a one-day international although no accusation of ball-tampering was ever made.
Cronje freely admitted to a darker side.
"I'm a very bad loser," he once confessed. "I'm a good winner but I'm really a terrible loser."
His lowest point came during the World Cup in England last year.
South Africa, the Cup favourites, missed out on the final after tying their semi-final against the eventual champions Australia. It was absolutely no consolation to Cronje that the match was unquestionably the greatest one-day game ever.
"The night after the World Cup semi-final I passed an Australian bar," Cronje recalled.
"One of the Aussies shouted: `Cronje you effing loser' and I was very tempted to cross the road, smack him as hard as I could and get all the frustrations out of my system."
Cronje resisted the temptation but further strains have emerged since the World Cup.
According to South African journalists who know both men, Cronje's relationship with Ali Bacher, the omnipotent head of South African cricket, has deteriorated.
They say Cronje was unhappy with what he saw as an arbitrary policy of racial quotas and also upset at the amount of one-day cricket South Africa have been asked to play.
He announced he would coach English county Glamorgan but was persuaded to carry on as South African captain.
Still nobody could have anticipated yesterday's revelations, the biggest crisis to hit the sport since the 1932-33 bodyline series between England and Australia.
Diplomatic relations between the countries were briefly threatened when Australia protested against the England tactics of bowling directly at their batsmen in a successful attempt to thwart the scoring of leading Australian batsman Don Bradman.
Bacher spoke from the heart when he told a news conference that Cronje had been dishonest.
"We in South African cricket are shattered," he said. "The UCBSA (United Cricket Board of South Africa) and the government have been deceived."
Delhi not surprised by match-fixing scandal
By John Chalmers
NEW DELHI, India, (Reuters) - In the dingy alleys of Old Delhi, where fat-cat bullion dealers place bets on almost anything, no one is surprised by cricket's match-fixing scandal.
"It's difficult to believe all these players are involved in this - it used to be a gentleman's game," said one trader. "But it goes on all the time, and the punters are getting wise to it."
South Africa captain Hansie Cronje said yesterday he had not been "entirely honest" in his denials of match-fixing in India and was sacked from a one-day series against Australia.
South Africa's cricket board chief said Cronje had admitted receiving between $10 000 and $15 000 after being contacted by a local South African and an Indian bookmaker based in London during a one-day series with Zimbabwe and England.
Betting is illegal in India except on horse racing, but vast sums are wagered in shady deals on the nation's favourite sport.
VAST SUMS WAGERED
No one knows how much is laid in bets on cricket in India. According to an estimate by Business Standard newspaper, it could be at least 120 billion rupees ($2.75 billion) a year, equivalent to half the turnover of the country's burgeoning information technology industry.
Such is the enthusiasm for betting that one gold trader said that if he was tipped off that it would rain in the next hour, he would put money down on it straight away.
But it is cricket that draws the gamblers, who bet on which side will win a match, how many runs a particular batsman will score, who will win the toss and whether there will be a last-minute change in the batting order.
The cricketnext.com Internet portal said bets are accepted every half-hour during the first 40 overs of a 50-over match and then after every over until the final over, when they are accepted after every ball.
There are no bookies staking out the alleyways of Kucha Mahajani, literally meaning the "Alley of the Wealthy", where tiny stalls packed with hefty bricks of silver and dazzling jewellery are squeezed in between heaps of garbage and a spaghetti of telephone cables.
All the bets laid here are collected by a local runner who places them with the bookmakers - mostly faceless voices on the end of mobile phones.
Pradip Magazine, cricket editor of The Indian Express and author of a book on betting and match-fixing, said wagers are only accepted from people introduced by reliable friends.
How does the fixing racket work?
"A bookie would need somebody who knows a player, a middleman," said Magazine. "If I approach a player, tell him not to play so well, I'll bet a huge amount on this. Theoretically, if a player makes 10 million rupees ($229 000), the man who operates the thing makes ten times as much."
Magazine, whose newspaper carried a report on "Cricket in the age of Cronje capitalism", said punters will now think twice before they put money into what could be a racket.
But the message is already getting through.
"When the bookmaker gets his bets, he passes instructions on to the players in the stadium," says one trader in the gold bazaar. "It's the one-time, small punters who are losing money."
Business Standard said the government could earn handsome revenues by making betting on cricket legal.
It said such a step could also provide a disincentive for match-fixing because bookmakers would fix odds at transparent prices with a guaranteed margin for themselves.
S. African fans stunned by Cronje admission
By Luke Baker
JOHANNESBURG, SA, (Reuters) - In bars around Johannesburg fans shook their heads in disbelief and stared disconsolately into their beers yesterday as they tried to make sense of the scandal which has rocked South African cricket.
Hansie Cronje's startling admission that he took up to $15 000 money from a bookmaker ahead of a game has left supporters bewildered.
"I'm devastated, I just can't believe it. I thought he was a very honest, very straight guy. I thought he played for the love of his country. I can't believe he'd give that all up for money," said Anton Naude, a local businessman.
"He'll never come back from this."
Cronje, 30, was sacked as South Africa's captain yesterday after he admitted receiving between $10 000 and $15 000 from a local South African and an Indian bookmaker in London during the triangular home series with Zimbabwe and England in January.
Fans said Cronje had disgraced himself and the game.
"It taints the individual and the sport," said Ronnie Kesson, a construction worker, as he nursed a Castle lager, the official sponsor of the national team.
"He was a great cricketer, a great man, and he lost that in seconds. It's a deep embarrassment. He's going to have to live in isolation for the rest of his life. His reputation is gone."
Traders in the city, accustomed to a punt or two on sports, were let down, but not surprised.
"I think the guys had been betting on it for two days," said a dealer at Investec Bank.
"Some of the bookmakers in the room were celebrating ... but the sentiment is one of disappointment."
A woman at Anglo American, South Africa's largest company, said she had taken Hansie's admission personally.
"I feel absolutely sick about it. It is like someone in my family had been caught doing these things. I feel so betrayed."
At Kingsmead in Durban, where the match is due to be played, supporters were stunned.
"The whole country put their faith in him - this is an absolute disgrace. If I saw him in the street I'd punch him in the face," said Darren Whittle, 20, the public address announcer for today's match.
Viv Holden, an event manager for match sponsors Standard Bank, organised an autograph session with handicapped and terminally-ill children from the Reach for a Dream Foundation at the South African net practice on Monday.
"Hansie kept those kids waiting from 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. without even acknowledging them. Some of them have two months to live. When I looked at their faces when he finally came to them I saw how they worshipped him. Now I feel sick. We treat the players like gods, and look at this," he said.
CALL FOR INQUIRY
The United Democratic Movement, a minor opposition party, called for a immediate and thorough enquiry.
"In sport we must be even more vigilant since our sportsmen and women are more than just national heroes, they are role models for our children and ambassadors of our country," the party said in a statement.
Talk radio shows and Internet chat rooms were abuzz, with most commentators astonished that a man of such high international repute could be brought down for such a comparatively small sum of money.
Those consoling themselves with alcohol were also amazed that as little as $10 000 could have been the motivation.
"Perhaps for $1 million or more, but $10 000? It doesn't make sense, it's a ridiculously small amount," said John Whiskin, a casino executive.
April 13, 2000
Walcott says match-fixing allegations very serious
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (CANA)- Chairman of the International Cricket Council's Cricket Committee, Sir Clyde Walcott, believes that the recent allegations of match-fixing against four South African players are very serious.
Commenting in a report in yesterday's Barbados Advocate, the former Barbados and West Indies batsman said there was little reason for concern regarding an increase in such cases.
"I don't know about an increase in the number of cases because this is only the third case in three years, " Sir Clyde told the Barbados Advocate.
"However, if people are fixing matches to get money, this could develop as a major problem for international cricket."
Walcott's comments came after four South Africans - Hansie Cronje, Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom - were recently accused by Indian authorities of fixing matches in last month's limited overs series in India.
Sir Clyde added that the ICC has instituted measures to counteract any rise in match-fixing and he believes the persons entrusted with the powers to deal with these cases are very capable.
"The ICC is certainly prepared to deal with these cases and has set up a high-powered committee to deal with these issues," he said.
"But one has to be very cautious since these are legal matters and the countries that contract the players deal with the allegations first.
"If the ICC is, however, not satisfied with the country's investigations then we would launch independent investigations," Walcott was reported as saying.
Continuing, Walcott said,"The ICC has to deal with these issues because match-fixing is something that can harm the image of the game, which is looked upon worldwide as a game of fair play."
Cronje, the South African skipper, was sacked on Tuesday after he belatedly admitted that he accepted cash from an Indian bookmaker in January for the triangular home series with England and Zimbabwe.
Barry Richards wants life bans for match fixers
SYDNEY, Australia, (Reuters) - South African cricket great Barry Richards has called on the International Cricket Council (ICC) to impose life bans on players found guilty of match-fixing.
Richards said he was stunned by South African captain Hansie Cronje's admission that he accepted money from an Indian bookmaker.
Cronje has denied match fixing but Richards said the scandal had seriously tarnished the game's international image and it was up to the ICC to take action.
"It's hard to know where to go from here from a cricket point of view and a South African cricket point of view, Richards who now lives in Australia told reporters on Wednesday.
"If anybody is found guilty of fixing cricket matches, there is nothing else that the world body can do except ban that person for life."
Richards was considered one of the world's outstanding batsmen of the 1960s and 70s but was restricted to just four test match appearances when South African teams were banned from world sport because of the government's racist policies.
He spent the remainder of his career playing first-class cricket mostly in England and Australia.
He had retired by the time South Africa were readmitted to world cricket in 1992 and said the Cronje affair had thrown South African cricket into turmoil.
"Obviously it is going to put them in a bit of disarray because there are other players involved and nothing has been said about those as yet," he said.
"At this point in time, to my knowledge, they are still members of the team so that's going to be a difficult one in itself.
"The impact is serious on international cricket and cricket and sport as a whole I think.
"I suppose we all view sport and sports people as relatively squeaky clean. I'm not sure that that's exactly right because everybody is a human being."
ICC promises stiff punishment for corrupt players
By Himangshu Watts
CALCUTTA, India, (Reuters) - Players found guilty of corruption would face `exemplary punishment', International Cricket Council (ICC) president Jagmohan Dalmiya told Reuters yesterday.
"We cannot allow anybody to tarnish the image of cricket, and therefore undoubtedly exemplary punishment is needed and will be given," he said.
"Whoever it may be, from whichever country, irrespective of it, action will be taken so that others don't dare to do it."
Last Friday, Indian police charged South Africans Hansie Cronje, Nicky Boje, Herschelle Gibbs and Pieter Strydom with "cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy" during a one-day series in India last month.
The players deny match-fixing, but Cronje was sacked as his country's captain on Tuesday after admitting receiving between $10 000 and $15 000 from a bookmaker.
The scandal outraged cricket fans and provoked criticism of the ICC and calls for the international body to take action.
Dalmiya rejected accusations that the ICC contributed to the Cronje scandal by failing to deal with previous match-fixing allegations.
"If somebody is saying why was action not taken earlier by the ICC, either he is saying that without the knowledge or background or I think he needs to do a little more homework."
He said that although the ICC would not "waste a day" in dealing with the Cronje scandal, it wanted the South African cricket authorities to make a thorough investigation and not a hurried report.
"We do not want to take any hasty action at the cost of the quality of the investigation," he said.
The scandal had damaged the game and required the ICC to take corrective steps, Dalmiya said.
NZ's Doig says Cronje ' huge warning'
AUCKLAND, NZ, (Reuters) - South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje's sacking for taking money to provide information on matches was "a huge warning" for the sport internationally, New Zealand Cricket chief executive Chris Doig said yesterday.
Cronje was dumped as South African captain on Tuesday after he admitted receiving between $10 000 and $15 000 from a South African and a London-based Indian bookmaker during the triangular home series with Zimbabwe and England in January.
Doig told the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) that players should be careful that anything as seemingly innocuous as passing on weather information on a match day could have serious repercussions.
"It is a huge warning," he told NZPA.
Doig was shocked that one of the game's most respected figures had been caught out.
"When someone of Hansie Cronje's apparent credibility and stature openly admits to being involved, then cricket has huge problems and it needs to be sorted out," he said.
"We told our players that if anybody wanted any information or anything to do with them and there is an exchange of money then they need to be absolutely on their guard and report that to the manager.
"I'd like to think we've got it reasonably under control but it would be absolutely foolhardy to be complacent about it."
Doig said the incident sent a strong message to every player but the key was to identify the perpetrators.
"If we can identify who is involved and make inroads into their cartels then that would make a heck of a lot of difference to the sport."
New Zealand tour Zimbabwe and South Africa starting in October.
More on this fascinating story
South Africa's fallen hero
April 11, 2000
Cricket under scrutiny
April 11, 2000
A gentleman's game?
April 11, 2000
How the revelations unfolded
April 12, 2000
How to be corrupt in cricket
April 12, 2000
Cricket chiefs launch Cronje inquiry
April 12, 2000
Integrity hit for six
April 13, 2000
Cronje: I always played to win
April 13, 2000
Calls grow for global cricket inquiry
April 13, 2000
Let's not cast the sinner adrift
April 15, 2000
Calls for global cricket inquiry
April 15, 2000
April 16, 2000
ICC waited too long on match-fixing
April 17, 2000
Judge finds Pakistan players fixed games
April 18, 2000
Arrested businessman points finger at Azharuddin
April 18, 2000
Bacher: "World Cup matches were fixed"
April 21, 2000