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October 17, 2001
With Hansie Cronje's life ban now confirmed by the Pretoria High Court, the right of cricket's governing bodies to administer cricket has been reaffirmed. And not a moment too soon, some might believe.
Whichever way it is seen, Judge Frank Kirk-Cohen's judgement simply re-establishes the status quo. Even before argument began in the case, the United Cricket Board had acknowledged that the ban could not and did not extend to activities such as coaching children outside the ambit of the UCB's structures, working in the media and buying a ticket to watch a cricket match.
Crucially, Judge Kirk-Cohen took the view that the matter of accrediting Cronje as a journalist still lay with the UCB. In other words, it is still up to the UCB to decide if and when they see fit to allow Cronje to use their facilities.
In other words, nothing has changed. It might be stretching a point to argue that the UCB "won" the case. Certainly, though, Cronje lost.
And all of this does rather beg the question of exactly what Cronje believes he is entitled to. By his own admission he dealt with bookmakers over a number of years. So have other cricketers, his supporters have argued, and they haven't been banned for life.
But Cronje took it a step further. He tried to induce his team-mates, most notably Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams to underperform. That the plot failed is neither here nor there. The intention was there and if players deliberately set out to give of less than their best, then what we have, by almost anyone's reckoning, is match-fixing. Certainly, if players give their wickets away or bowl badly on purpose, then they have deceived their team-mates, their supporters and anyone who has taken the time and trouble to pay attention to their performances.
The UCB, no doubt, will heave a sigh of relief. And so, too, will the International Cricket Council. A crisis for cricket has been averted and although most people believe that the scourge of corruption has by no means been eradicated, at least the right of cricket to rid itself of cheats has been confirmed.
The match-fixing saga has been a desperately sad affair, both for the game and for Cronje himself. It is to be hoped that he will go away and reflect on what has happened to him and to cricket during the past 18 months or so. What cricket still seeks from him are signs of genuine remorse. While he continues to say that he is sorry for what he has done, his challenge to the ban tended to suggest that what he was really sorry about was being caught.
There may, in the future, be a place for him, some kind of role for him, in cricket. The door has never been completely slammed in his face. But he has to accept that any return will come by way of invitation, not by demand.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?