Woolmer backs Cronje the Bold as ICC sniff at Test result

Trevor Chesterfield

January 19, 2000

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Centurion - As fond as the International Cricket Council are of peddling the myth that they believe in the modern image of the game, Hansie Cronje's decision to resurrect a dying Test with the support of Nasser Hussain has not gone down well at HQ.

Bob Woolmer, the former South Africa coach, was one of those full of praise for the bold efforts by the two captains to raise the ICC eyebrows over the declaration and forfeiture of innings, as allowed in Law 14. However some within the ICC regard the double act as not being within the "spirit of the code of Test conduct.

Woolmer, along with a former England captain, Alec Stewart as well as beefy Arjuna Ranatunga felt the Cronje and Hussain pact was the sort of positive move needed to drag the game by the boot straps into the 21st century.

"Hansie did the game the biggest favour imaginable at the dawn of the new century," he said. "It also did the game at Test level a new meaning and I am certain it will lead to other captains thinking along the same lines in similar circumstances.

"I feel that it will take the frustration of watching a match drift into a meaningless state," said the man who in April rejoins Warwickshire as their coach. Highly regarded for his intuitive as well as innovative approach to the game Woolmer doubted whether, had the series not been won, the two captains would have entered such a pact, but having done so it was worth the gamble.

"Hansie and Nasser have no doubt set a precedent and I do not think they should be criticised for trying to do something out of the ordinary," he added. Woolmer was disappointed that South Africa had lost the game yet pointed out that the loss of Paul Adams with a broken finger had not helped Cronje's plans, especially later in the game when the young wrist-spinner was needed.

He also felt the declaration had been a generous one and praised Cronje for setting attacking fields when he could have closed up.

"The two captains deserve credit for what they did and I am sure it will attract more people to the game, which is what is needed with so many other attractions," Woolmer added.

Stewart, whose innings of 73 did much to help England achieve the winning target of 251 for nine felt the Test had been brought alive by Cronje's actions and Hussain's positive response.

As for Ranatunga his first reaction was that it had created the sort of thinking which needed to be studied.

"It may be thought of as a way of manufacturing a result, but examination of the law explains that they did what was allowed," said the former Sri Lanka captain. "You cannot fault anyone who adopts a positive response to conditions which created a result."

In England the game attracted impressive audiences as the drama unfolded but at Lord's, where the ICC have their headquarters, the TV was switched off and reaction was one of polite indifference.

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