A great tragedy

IT is always a great tragedy when a young spotsman is killed and even more so when that sportsman had not the time to redeem himself from the shame he has brought on himself.

Those were my thoughts when I heard of the sad death of Hansie Cronje.

I had nothing but disgust, contempt and a great disappointment when I learnt of his role in the bribery scandal.

Disgust and contempt were obvious feelings for a cricketer like me who had for all his life believed in all what cricket stood for.

Disappointment because I had formed a friendship with Hansie and spent time with him over dinner and drinks as well as being a welcome guest in his parent home.

I suppose as you get older you place more value on family and I must admit when the Cronje scandal first broke my immediate thoughts were for his family.

I was far too angry and disgusted with Cronje to feel any sympathy for him.

Once again when the news of Cronje's death came through I thought with great sadness about how his mum and dad would feel. I admired and respected them for the public and private support they gave to their son during his troubled times and their great faith has shone through in this latest tragedy.

I must admit, however, I have been most disappointed in the utterances and lack of sympathy shown by many ex-cricketers some of whom also have done things detrimental to the interests of the game.

Make no mistake about it, what Hansie Cronje did was a disgrace. He deserved all he got.

The most infamous action to me was his attempt to corrupt the most vulnerable members of his team, including the Cape coloured youngster Herschelle Gibbs.

This lad came from disadvantaged background, revered Hansie and would be obviously vulnerable and influenced by approaches from his captain. Just what caused Hansie to go the way he did has been put down to good old fashion creed. Whatever it was he did great harm to world and South African cricket.

In time people's disappointment and disgust would have mellowed a little and perhaps he might have been given a chance to contribute something back into the game which he had taken so much from.

We now will never know.

Yet again another person has become a victim of the illegal action controversy. And he is not even a bowler!

I am of course writing about Australian Vice-captain Adam Gilchrist and the ludicrous charge of doing something "detrimental to the interests of the game."

His crime to answer a question at a private function. The question was whether he thought Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was a "chucker."

"Yes" replied Gilchrist.

"Technically, if you read the rules, I think he's probably not quite within them."

To me a simple straight forward reply.

Not however to the Board who immediately charged him, found he did contravene a particular section of the ICC's laws, but did not impose any penalty.

What a over reaction. But typical of the way our ruling bodies handle the vexed question of illegal actions.

It seems to me that this issue is too much of a hot potato and our ruling bodies just wish it would go away.

It won't go away particularly with so many bowlers operating at Test and one-day levels whose action, to say the least, "are a bit suspect". Unfortunately the action of these bowlers is being blamed throughout the cricketing world and young hopefuls are copying their heroes.

Ross Emerson, the former Australian Test bowler and the past umpire, had some interesting comments.

Remember, Emerson no-balled Muralitharan in a one-day match against England in 1998/99 season at Adelaide Oval. His action led to Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga leading his team to the boundary and threatening to leave the field.

Emerson's no- balling came at a time when relations between Australia and Sri Lanka were still cool after Aussie umpires Darrell Hair and Tony McQuillan called Muralitharan in 1995/96.

It was Emerson's final appointment to an international match as he was sacked by the ACB two days later.

Darrell Hair was not allowed to officiate in 1998/99 as the ACB had suspended him for describing Muralitharan's action, "as diabolical" in his autobiography.

Incidentally, Darryl Hair missed out umpiring in the 1996 World Cup played just after his first calling of Muralitharan in 1995/96, even though he was recognised as Australia's best umpire.

Van De Merve, the match referee, was planning to impose a six- match suspension on Ranatunga for bringing the game into disrepute, but this was dismissed after the Sri Lankan captain's legal team threatened the ICC with an injunction.

Peter Van der Merve is an honest, upright, fair and caring person who was shattered by the way the whole affair was handled, continued as a match referee until October 1999 but didn't officiate again after this incident.

It seems that every time umpires and match referees try to do the right thing they get little support from the ICC or Boards.

In fact, I wonder whether some of them even know the rules.

James Sutherland, the CEO of the Australian Cricket Board, was quoted as saying, "Muralitharan's action has been cleared by the ICC." No one is ever cleared of a suspected illegal action.

If they are reported they are examined through videos of that match.

If no problem is evident it will be declared that his action was acceptable from the videos they saw.

This doesn't mean his action has been cleared for ever and umpires and referees can no-ball or report him in the very first ball of the next match and at any time if they believe his action contravenes the law.