Kirsten's book reveals more on match-fixing

Published: Saturday, December 4, 2004, 18:06 [IST]
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Durban:Former South African opener Gary Kirsten had heard rumours about match-fixing but it was a simple conversation about a burger with his captain Hansie Cronje that made him realise that "something had gone very wrong" with the game.

In some startling revelations, Kirsten talks about Cronje's obsession with money and how he tried to involve the whole South African team in match-fixing in his autobiography -- 'Gazza' -- co-authored by South African-based journalist Neil Manthorp.

According to excerpts in Brisbane-based Courier Mail, Kirsten says he was tipped off about the enormity of the scandal during the team's cricket tour of Dubai in 1999.

He says he was joined by his wife Deb the same day that Cronje's wife Bertha flew in from South Africa.

Kirsten made it his business to seek out one of Dubai's finest restaurants to entertain his wife and asked Cronje the next day where he and Bertha had gone.

"He smiled and said they had gone to Burger King," Kirsten wrote. "I smiled back and shrugged my shoulders. He continued the conversation by asking why I would want to waste money on an expensive restaurant when you could get perfectly adequate food for a quarter of the price in a cheap restaurant.

"It was a small example but it was the moment I knew something had gone very wrong and it disturbed me. I couldn't get the idea out of my head he would rather eat a burger than have a very pleasant meal. He was very wealthy but far too driven by it. I think our relationship changed a bit that day."

However, Kirsten says it was in 1996-97 that he first came across Cronje's gambling issues.

He reveals how Cronje tried to orchestrate cricket's "perfect fix" in a One-day match against India in Mumbai in 1996-97 by calling the full squad to his room -- without coach Bob Woolmer -- to discuss an offer from a local bookmaker.

"'We have been offered a lot of money to throw a game', he said. I swear you could have heard a pin drop at that moment," Kirsten wrote.

"Nobody moved a muscle. In retrospect, I think I had gone into instant shock. Even if I had wanted to speak I would have been unable to. Hansie carried on talking slowly but clearly.

"I listened but it was out of respect for the captain and a strange fascination with what he was saying rather than any intention to carry out instructions. I knew within a few seconds I could not be involved ... but I listened.

"He had been asked to create the perfect fix. He spelt out the details of how the match had to pan out, with a spread of scores we needed to be within every five overs.

"I started sweating. It was a bad dream. I kept thinking, 'How do batsmen get out deliberately?' It was ridiculous. After eight overs we needed to be one wicket down - me - and we needed to have under 25 runs on the board. The idea was absurd. I have never got out deliberately in my life. He mentioned a couple of times it would be worth 60 or 70 thousand rand [about $15,000] each."

Kirsten also says that he increasingly became uncomfortable with the repeated references to match-fixing that Cronje kept making.

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