April 11, 2000

Cronje fired by UCBSA

Durban (South Africa) - Hansie Cronje is a captain without a country after being suspended from duty by the United Cricket Board today over allegations into match-fixing launched by the Indian police.

The 30-year-old, who may have played his last game in a practice match at Kingsmead on Sunday, has admitted he was handed between $US10 000 and $US15 000 during a triangular series in South Africa earlier this year as the game was rocked by the biggest controversy since the Kerry Packer rebel circus saga of 1976.

In another twist to the story Cronje, in Cape Town, where he is staying with his older brother Frans Cronje, has denied that he received any money at all.

A commission of inquiry, likely to be appointed by the South African Government, is to be launched as soon as possible, although no date has been given. It depends on whether the UCB's International Cricket Council member, Albie Sachs, is available to lead the inquiry. Sachs is at present in the United States. The inquiry has the support of the Minister of Sport, Ngconde Balfour.

Dr Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board told a packed media conference at a beachfront hotel yesterday afternoon that Cronje had called him at 3am to confess he had accepted money for "providing information and forecasting" during the triangular series that involved South Africa, England and Zimbabwe.

This was after he had been approached by a South African businessman who had links with a London-based Indian bookmaker. Neither identity were disclosed at yesterday's conference.

Cronje, whose R25 000 a month contract with the UCB has been suspended - his April salary will also not be paid - says he did not pay the money into his bank account. Cronje's suspension means he is not on the list of contracted players, to be released on Monday.

While in Cape Town Cronje was holding a media conference of his own Dr Bacher said the UCB were unaware whether the the payment was related to the triangular series, played in January and February, or the more recent Indian tour.

Cronje has denied taking a bribe to fix any of the matches in the home triangular series.

The South African captain also denied accepting any money in India to fix matches. Indian police, investigating match-fixing charges against Cronje, Nicky Boje, Pieter Strydom and Herschelle Gibbs, said they had fresh evidence of Cronje's complicity in the case. However, Boje, Strydom and Gibbs denied at a players meeting earlier in the day they had been involved at any stage. This has been supported by Cronje when questions were asked about the implication of the other three named in the Indian police charges.

What Cronje did acknowledge is that he was in telephone contact with bookmakers during South Africa's tour of India and admitted as much to Dr Bacher. Cronje, also, it appears, was harassed by a London-based bookmaker while on tour in India.

Dr Bacher said he and Percy Sonn, acting president of the UCB, had not asked Cronje for more details about his dealing with third parties in India because they felt he should consult a lawyer first. From their side UCB merely wanted to clarify how Cronje's admissions affected the cricket body.