Match-fixing a blot in SA~~s most successful captain

Published: Saturday, June 1, 2002, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: Hansie Cronje, who died in a light aircraft crash near his home in George on Saturday, was South Africa's most successful cricket captain before his career ended in disgrace after he admitted taking money from bookmakers. Cronje, 32, captained South Africa in 53 Test matches, of which 27 were won and 11 lost. He also led the side in 138 One-day Internationals, with 99 wins and 35 losses. The United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) banned him for life after admitting during the hearings of a commission of inquiry in June 2000 that he had received payments totalling more than $ 100,000 from illegal bookmakers. Cronje, born in the Central city of Bloemfontein on September 25, 1969 was a natural leader as well as a talented batsman. A product of Grey College in Bloemfontein, alma mater of some of South Africa's most famous sportsmen, including Kepler Wessels, his predecessor as South African captain, he captained the South African Schools cricket team in 1987. At the age of 21 he was appointed captain of Free State and led the previously unfashionable province to victory in South Africa's first-class competition in two successive seasons. He captained South Africa for the first time aged 24 when Wessels was injured during a tour of Australia in 1993-94 and took over as full-time captain when Wessels retired in 1994/95. In all he played in 68 Test matches, scoring 3,714 runs at an average of 36.41 with six centuries and 23 half-centuries. He took 43 Test wickets. In 188 One-day Internationals he hit 5,565 runs at 38.64 and took 114 wickets at 34.78. While he was leading South Africa on a tour of India in February and March 2000, police in New Delhi recorded conversations between Cronje and Sanjeev Chawla, a London-based businessman and alleged illegal bookmaker. In April 2000, New Delhi police announced they had laid charges against Cronje and three other South African players. A commission of inquiry was set up under retired judge Edwin King and Cronje confessed at hearings in Cape Town that he had taken money from bookmakers on at least four occasions. He had also offered bribes to two South African players, Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams, to under-perform in a One-day International in Nagpur, India, during the 2000 tour. Gibbs and Williams were later fined and banned until the end of 2000. Cronje is survived by his wife Bertha. He had been on his way to his home at the luxury Fancourt golf estate near George on South Africa's Southern Cape coast.

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