October 12, 2000

Life ban: Door slams shut on Cronje's career

At the start of April this year no one in cricket would have believed it possible, but for Hansie Cronje the door to the game finally and conclusively slammed shut on him on Wednesday when the United Cricket Board announced that he had been banned for life.

In less than seven months both international cricket and Cronje's life have been turned on their heads by the most serious scandal the game has known. It is not possible to be other than saddened by Cronje's punishment, even if it comes as no surprise whatsoever.

Indeed, Cronje pre-empted the ban in June when he told the King commission that he intended severing all his ties with cricket. What is a little unusual about the announcement is its timing. The commission, we are led to believe, is to resume its hearings in November and whether Cronje's sentence will have any effect on its final conclusions remains to be seen.

Cronje has seven days to appeal against the ban. It is understood that he has no intention of pursuing this course.

It is entirely understandable that the United Cricket Board should wish some sort of closure of the affair to be reached. It is less certain, though, that the full story has been revealed. There are many questions that remain unanswered, not the least of them being exactly who knew what and when did they know it.

In calling for a presidential commission of inquiry the UCB hoped to sweep clean the stable. This has not yet been achieved. In Nairobi this week it has been suggested that the full truth of the 1996 South African team meeting in Bombay has not yet emerged because "it is too sensitive". Whether or not this is the case is anyone's guess, but the fact remains that people still wonder what really happened.

Cronje's admissions shocked everyone in cricket and the stain on the game may take many years before it finally disappears. After Pakistan's four-wicket defeat against New Zealand on Wednesday a Kenyan journalist asked Moin Khan whether the match had been fixed. It was not clear whether the question had been posed in innocence or mischief. Moin's response was inaudible.

UCB managing director Ali Bacher arrived in Nairobi on Wednesday, but he declined to add to the bald facts of the ban as already announced.

In effect Cronje has been cast out of all cricket. He cannot coach or administer the game. He is a pariah. The ban, of course, cannot stop him from commenting on cricket, although it is difficult to believe that the UCB would grant him accreditation, but there is nothing to prevent him being employed, for example, as an in-studio television presenter.

The rumour mill has also linked Cronje with a chain of international fast food franchises and a major South African real estate agency. However he chooses to make his new life, he will forever be haunted by the knowledge that but for his "unfortunate love for money", he would have been remembered as South Africa's greatest captain.