April 9, 2000

Cronje denies match-fixing charges at media conference

Cronje denies match-fixing charges

Durban (South Africa) - A planned series of benefit matches in India involving teams led by Hansie Cronje and Sachin Tendulkarís India in late April are expected to be abandoned as the fall out over the match-fixing charges became entrenched at government level last night.

While Cronje firmly stood his ground and strenuously denied Indiaís police allegations, the United Cricket Board stood firmly behind the man who has led South Africa since November 1994.

On the political front, however, South Africaís department of foreign affairs are to meet with the Indian High Commissioner in Pretoria today while the South African High Commissioner in India, Ms Maite Nkoane-Ramashaba, to have an urgent meeting with the Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Dr Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board, last night told a media conference that the South African Government and the United Cricket Board viewed the allegations "in a most serious light" and discussions at government level would continue.

"The issues at stake are the lack of protocol used on this most serious issue and the bugging of phones used by the South African team while in India." Dr Bacher told the conference.

"These are very serious issues, but let me reaffirm the UCB believes in the integrity and honesty in our national captain," said Dr Bacher who was flanked by Cronje and Nicky Boje, one of the other three players the Indian police have attempted to implicate in allegations.

The others are Herschelle Gibbs, who was also at the conference and Pieter Strydom who is not in the national squad for the three-match series against Australia.

The players were at Kingsmead last night where the South African sided had a practice match against a South African Invitation XI as a warm-up for the first of three games against the World Cup champions who arrived yesterday.

Cronje, looking quite relaxed, come out strongly in his denial of the allegations.

"I want to make it 100 percent clear that I deny ever receiving any sum of money during the one-day international series in India," Cronje said. "I want to also make it absolutely clear I have never spoken to spoken to any member of the team about throwing a game."

"I want to make it clear that we see 40 to 50 people a day coming in and out of hotel rooms: asking for interviews, asking for autographs, asking for pictures ..... so it is impossible for me to identify one individual as the allegations contain," Cronje told the large gathering of South African and foreign media in the Kingsmead presidential lounge.

Percy Sonn, acting president of the UCB, who is now deputy national director of the South African anti-crime unit known as the Scorpions, pointed out that the Indian police was the agency of the Indian Government.

"Should they do anything which affects our nationals or national assets, which our national team is, then obviously it is something for our government to handle and not us (the UCB)," Sonn said.

"It is not the Indian (cricket) board, who approached us so it is not a cricket-to-cricket matter. This is a government matter," Sonn said.

"What is affected are the individual player rights: questions of defamation, questions of privacy," he said.

Sonn said while the South Africa and India constitutions were similar, the activities of the New Delhi police were not in keeping with the Indian constitution.

Cronje did admit that at a team meeting during the 1996/97 tour when the players were involved in a benefit match that the players were offered $US250 000 but "laughed it off".

The South African captain said he had to use another mobile phone in India as his own was damaged, having been dropped. The meant he had to borrow one from the teamís manager. Goolam Rajah.

"I did take mine over but did not use it at all," said Cronje.