Witness says he told fixing inquiry 'different story'
Henry Williams, the former South Africa bowler who was involved in the Hansie Cronje match-fixing case, has admitted he was never offered a specific amount of money to fix games but had told a different story to the King Commission in 2000. Williams was banned for six months after the investigation but did not play for South Africa again.
At the inquiry, Williams testified that he had been offered US$ 15,000 from his captain Cronje to concede more than 50 runs in his 10 overs in the fifth ODI between South Africa and India in Nagpur. The same amount of money had been offered to Herschelle Gibbs to score less than 20 runs. However, while speaking to ESPNcricinfo during the practice match between the South African Invitation XI and the New Zealanders in Paarl two weeks ago, Williams claimed that no such details were discussed. Instead Cronje had joked with Gibbs and him, according to Williams, who said they were later convinced to pad up their stories for the King Commission.
In the match in question, Williams injured his shoulder and only bowled 11 balls while Gibbs scored 74, and neither received any money.
Williams admitted to being afraid of what might have happened to him and that he thinks there was a lot of pressure to produce a more detailed story to prove Cronje's guilt. "It was serious then, and after that I thought, alright, life must go on: it can't stop," he said. "But at that particular moment there was fear.
"When we testified to our lawyers what the story really was, they came up with a threat that we could be prosecuted for doing something like this. So it means we actually lied to our lawyers, who had to tell another story to get to somebody. I believe that was to get to Cronje and whoever was involved in this.
"I had never been in a court before. We gave our Senior Counsel the story. We had to come back and testify to the King commission - a different story. I don't know if we were forced to lie to get to somebody else. I'm still confused today.
"When people ask me I will tell them the truth. I'll say, 'That's what I said to my lawyers; what really happened'. Then, to the King commission, a different story. I don't know why, because we were forced by the prosecution. I didn't know what the hell was happening, what can happen to me. So I came up with a different story."
The version of the story Williams said is true was never heard by the King Commission, but he did expand on the details of what happened, almost 13 years later. "By the time I was in the shower [the morning of the Nagpur match], I heard Cronje in the room speaking to Herschelle but I don't know what they are talking about.
"When I put my shirt over my head, he [Cronje] said, 'Hey, let's throw this game'. I said, 'Ja, let's throw this game'. Because now he's smiling with me and I'm smiling with him - if you're going to bullshit me I'm going to bullshit you, so fine. There was nothing involved.
"At lunchtime, he [Cronje] came to me and said, 'We scored too many runs'. I looked at him and said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'Guys, the deal is off'. I said, 'So what?' He never spoke to us about money - you're going to get this and you must go for that."
The lawyers who represented Williams and Gibbs at the King Commission, senior counsel Mike Fitzgerald and attorney Peter Whelan, deny that they had convinced Williams to lie on the stand. "That's outrageous," Fitzgerald said. "Why would I give my own client a version that implicates him? If I somehow persuaded him to lie, to whose benefit would that be?" Whelan called the allegations, "fundamental rubbish".
The King Commission secretary John Bacon said it was unlikely the investigations will be reopened unless they received something from Williams in writing.
Williams currently works with the Boland Under-19 team, while Gibbs plays in various Twenty20 leagues around the world. He is at present with the Perth Scorchers for the Big Bash League and refused to get involved in the current issue. "I spoke to Herschelle and he wasn't interested in commenting," Scorchers media manager Daniel Davini said from Perth yesterday. "He said, 'I have nothing say about that and I don't want to have anything to do with that'."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent