Champions League Twenty20 2011

The man who played White Lightning

Meet Dane Vilas, the Cape Cobras wicketkeeper who performed the role of Allan Donald in Hansie - a movie on Cronje's life

Nitin Sundar in Chennai

September 27, 2011

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

Dane Vilas receives the domestic newcomer of the year award from Graeme Smith, Johannesburg, June 30, 2009
Dane Vilas receives domestic newcomer of the year award for 2009 from Graeme Smith © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Hansie Cronje | Allan Donald | Dane Vilas
Series/Tournaments: Nokia Champions League T20
Teams: South Africa

Dane Vilas' face bears almost no resemblance to Allan Donald's. If anything, Vilas, the Cape Cobras wicketkeeper, with his angular, lined visage and easy smile, has more in common with Fanie de Villiers. Vilas does however have a fast bowler's physique. He is tall, strong and broad-shouldered - attributes that must have helped him land the role of Donald in Hansie, a 2008 movie on the life of former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje and what he went through during the match-fixing scandal he was involved in.

Vilas, who is in India for the Champions League Twenty20, admitted he didn't know why he was selected for the part while speaking to ESPNcricinfo on September 25, coincidentally Cronje's birthday. "I'm not entirely sure why they picked me," said Vilas, whose only bowling experience is as a part-timer in the nets. "They were looking for guys who could play cricket and may be do a little bit of acting. I went through a pretty standard audition, I said a few lines. Obviously they liked what they saw, and they called me up one day and said I've got the part."

Once he was in, though, Vilas got into the White Lightning persona quickly. "I got all the Allan Donald stuff - the zinc cream, the arm bands, a little bit of snarling at the batsmen. I did everything Allan used to do since they wanted to make it as realistic as possible," he said. "I am not 100% sure if Allan has seen the movie though, I haven't heard from him."

While the part wasn't very long, Vilas said it was "quite significant" to the movie. "It wasn't a huge role, but I had a fair bit to do. There were a few scenes where I bowled, batted and fielded. And I also said a few lines. I was in quite a few scenes."

So what was his favourite line in the movie? Vilas took a while recollecting, which came as a bit of a surprise even though it has been over three years since the movie was shot.

"We were all in a team situation, the whole side sitting and joking around in an informal gathering. Hansie was also in the group, and they showed a picture of him on the TV. I can't remember exactly what the line was, but it was something to the effect of: 'Not too bad for an old goat!'."

Vilas was the only professional cricketer to play a major part in the movie. "There were one or two snippets of other players, Friedel de Wet [the South Africa fast bowler] for instance played Glenn McGrath in one of the scenes. But the guys who played Jonty Rhodes and the other major South African cricketers were all professional actors.

"It was a great experience, and completely different to what we are used to doing. I had never done anything like that before or since. Just working behind the scenes, it was actually nice to see how they go about making movies."

While he found it an exciting experience, Vilas said it was also a very emotional time. "One of the producers was Hansie's brother [Franz Cronje] and the main thing about the movie was that they wanted to show his side of the story, for everyone to understand what exactly happened. Different parts of the media went for different angles to get their stuff to sell, but the movie wanted to just tell the actual truth; so there was a lot of emotion on the sets."

The movie was not very well-received in South Africa, but Vilas will always hold his contribution close to his heart. Like many South African kids who took to cricket in the early 90s, Vilas idolised Cronje in his formative years, and watched in disbelief when he disintegrated in front of television cameras a decade later. "When I was a kid growing up watching him, I loved him and the way he played. From what I understand from guys who played with Hansie, everyone looked up to him. He was a great leader, and there was huge respect for him.

"I don't think it [the match-fixing scandal] was something he ever wanted to put his team-mates through. It was an ugly thing, unfortunately it happened, and it spoiled his reputation and what he would have been remembered for."

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (September 29, 2011, 11:53 GMT)

lets do something to remember his cricketing achievments which his family would be proud of

Posted by   on (September 29, 2011, 10:30 GMT)

Dane Vilas will play for SA One Day!!

Posted by SanjivAwesome on (September 29, 2011, 8:03 GMT)

I remember watching Cronje. Awesome cricketer. Great personality. I remember him as such - forget the negative stuff. Lets remember him for his greatness.

Posted by   on (September 29, 2011, 6:38 GMT)

what a legend...sad story

Posted by JustIPL on (September 29, 2011, 5:15 GMT)

INdian players are a burden on RCB and KKR. Malinga, baravo come to rescue.

Posted by   on (September 29, 2011, 4:00 GMT)

Best captain i ever seen....

Posted by   on (September 29, 2011, 3:17 GMT)

Hansie was the only guy to accept fixing and he got the worst punishment ! the other crooks got away

Posted by   on (September 28, 2011, 17:38 GMT)

I think its human nature always to look for bad things first..but for me Hansie is one of best cricketer SA has produced. He played a major role in teams success.

Posted by palla.avinash on (September 28, 2011, 11:09 GMT)

very sad to cronje after very good carrer.

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Nitin Sundar Social media manager Nitin spent his formative years perfecting the art of landing the googly, before blossoming into a book-cricket specialist. More excellence followed in the underarm version of the game before, like the majority of India's misguided youth, he started taking studies seriously. After four forgettable years of electrical engineering, followed by a rigorous MBA and 16 months in the strategy consulting industry, he began to ponder life's more profound issues. Such as the angle made by Brian Lara's bat with the horizontal at the peak of his back-lift. A move to ESPNcricinfo followed and Nitin is now a prolific nurdler in office cricket, with a questionable technique against the short ball.
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