Cronje’s teammates find Wessels’ fixing claims ‘strange’

South African cricket fraternity stands divided every time there’s a debate on Hansie Cronje. Whenever there’s a controversy surrounding the former cricketer’s involvement in the match-fixing scandal, his former teammates appear to be in different poles.

Cronje, who passed away in an air crash in 2002, took South African cricket to a different level.   -  N. Sridharan

 

South African cricket fraternity stands divided every time there’s a debate on Hansie Cronje. Whenever there’s a controversy surrounding the former cricketer’s involvement in the match-fixing scandal, his former teammates appear to be in different poles.

While they all unanimously agree that Cronje, who passed away in an air crash in 2002, took South African cricket to a different level, a sense of disappointment hovers around as they start speaking about the match-fixing episode. So on Thursday, as former captain Kepler Wessels claimed that he suspected Cronje of being involved in fixing matches long before he was caught in 2000, most of Cronje’s teammates couldn’t believe that their ‘skipper’ was involved in the dirty act so early in his career.

Wessels: ‘Suspected Cronje of fixing matches long before he was caught’

“That’s so not possible. It’s very strange. The year Kepler is talking about (1994), Hansie was not even a proper captain, so it was definitely not possible for him to be a part of something so ridiculous,” former Proteas quick Fanie de Villiers told Sportstar from Gauteng.

In his long career with South Africa, de Villiers has spent quite a long time with Cronje, but even then, he claims to have not come across any suspected behaviour from the captain. “I don’t know what made Kepler think so, but as a player, there was absolutely nothing we could assume then,” de Villiers said, adding that Cronje ‘may have’ got involved into the scandal towards the later part of the nineties. “If somebody knew about it, ideally he should have reported it. But then, at that time there was no such provision. A player could talk to anybody. Who would know that whether somebody is a bookie or not,” the former cricketer, who doesn’t like sugar-coating stuff, pointed out.

Who would defend Hansie?

It’s a similar feeling for Dave Callaghan. The former batsman, who was a part of the side around that time, is yet to come to terms with Wessels’ allegations. Having shared the dressing room with both the cricketers, Callaghan believes that it’s unfair to brew up another

controversy after so many years. “If Kepler knew about it, then why was he silent all these years? Was he under any pressure? When he knew that a young player was into a scam, why didn’t he blow the whistle then?” Callaghan questioned.

In the interview to Fox Sports, Wessels claimed that his concerns were heightened during a 1994 triangular series involving Pakistan and Australia. Callaghan, however, feels that there could be some other intention behind such a ‘powerful statement’. “For all of us, who were part of that team, this statement from Kepler comes as a surprise. The question is, if he doubted Hansie’s credibility, then who stopped him from recording his statement to the Kings Commission?” the former cricketer, who played 29 ODIs for the Proteas, said.

There’s another puzzle that Callaghan is yet to solve—why did Wessels speak out in Australia? “In South Africa, he never spoke a word about all this. Now suddenly, what makes him reveal such sensational stuff? This is a huge surprise,” he stated, adding that it’s unfair to accuse somebody, who is no more and can’t defend his case. “The world knows what happened. What’s surprises me is the fact that all this while, what was Kepler waiting for?”

Wessels had grudges

While de Villiers and Callaghan can't understand the reason behind such a comment, another member of that team, Meyrick Pringle puts it straight--"may be, Kepler has grudges against Hansie, that's where this statement is coming from."

The former quick, who played both under Wessels and Cronje, explains further. "Kepler felt that it was Hansie who led to his ouster. That's where it started. This misunderstanding was the talk of the town at that time (1993-94)," he said, adding that to talk about something like this after a man's death is unexpected. "This is 100 per cent baseless allegation. Let's accept the fact that Hansie was the only cricketer who showed the courage of admitting his mistake. There were many of them out there, but none spoke out. So, fifteen years after his death, let the man rest in peace," Pringle said.

May be, we were that bad

Pringle's reaction is echoed as Jonty Rhodes speaks out on the issue. "Please take a look back at the 1994-1995 Wills triangular series that Kepler is referring to. You will see that South Africa played six and lost all of them. Hansie was an amazing motivator of his team. He made us believe we could win matches from any position. We must have been really bad in the subcontinent if Pakistan still beat us when they were "not trying to win it," he said.

Looking back at that tournament where South Africa lost all the games, Rhodes added: "As far as me running out a few Pakistan players in an ODI is concerned, let's face it, they were probably the worst runners between the wickets back then, and some might argue, still are to this day."

Nothing to say

As the former cricketers find Wessel’s comments surprising, Sportstar reached out to former South Africa cricket boss Dr Ali Bacher to know his side of the story. But then, the veteran administrator, who was at the helm of cricket administration in the country then, chose to ignore the issue. “I have heard about Kepler’s claims, but I don’t have anything to say about it. I wouldn’t comment,” is all he said.

It’s been almost 15 years since Cronje’s death, but even then, his steps are still talked about in the cricketing fraternity. And this time, with one of the former skippers raising a finger at Cronje, things have suddenly turned stormy, all over again!