16 May 1999
SA Captain told to remove hearing device that's 'against spirit of game'
BONNY SCHOONAKKER: Hove
SOUTH Africa's World cup campaign began in controversy yesterday when captain Hansie Cronje was accused of going "against the spirit of the game" of cricket.
Earlier, he was ordered to remove an earpiece keeping him in radio contact with teammates and coach Bob Woolmer back in the dressing room.
Cronje, who took to the field at Sussex County Cricket Club's ground for the opening Group A match against India wearing the device, was ordered to remove it by match referee Talat Ali during the first drinks break.
Brijesh Patel, India's manager, said he felt that South Africa's use of the bionic ear "was against the spirit of the game", and the International Cricket Conference, the sport's supreme governing body, strongly criticised the manner in which the devices were introduced into the game by South Africa.
A spokesman for the ICC said at Hove that the World Cup was not the event to "experiment with new devices" and that South Africa should have secured permission from the ICC before using them in an international match.
Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, said at the lunch interval that they had not realised the earpieces were to be used during the World Cup. However, he insisted there was nothing underhand about South Africa having introduced the devices into the game without first seeking the approval of the ICC or World Cup officials.
Woolmer said Cronje's device was similar to those used in other sports, such as World Cup soccer and American gridiron football. He said the system had been developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and had been used by SA cricketers over the past three years.
"Some of the guys enjoyed using it, and only a player who wants to use one wears it," Woolmer said.
He said the "innovation" allowed players to listen to advice from the coach but that the communication was one-way, with no facilities to talk back to the coach.
"We don't want to annoy anyone and it only helps to speed up the game. The idea was to take the game forward," Woolmer said.
He said the devices were expensive, costing R5 000 for the transmitter and R800 for the earpieces, and that some of these costs had been paid out of the players' pockets.
Of all the players who took to the field yesterday morning,only fast bowler Allan Donald and Cronje had the earpieces fitted, Woolmer said. However, physiotherapist Craig Smith was also seen in the players' area with the device attached to his head with sticking plaster. He said the earpieces "were used to keep us in touch with our satellites" and that "all of us have ear infections".