The story of Hansie Cronje is a non-celluloid tale of a tainted hero whose stature still nestles on the shaky hands of a paradox. One of the greatest captains of the modern era and the one who shaped South African Cricket a little after readmission, Wessel Johannes Hansie Cronje was born on September 25, 1969. This fallen hero would have turned 49 today had it not been for a fateful Saturday afternoon of June 2002.
The life of the man in question enounces how not all stories have a happy ending. The word ‘happy’ itself seems too far from Hansie’s reality whose ending wasn’t even an undisputed one. On that fateful Saturday afternoon, what would become his last, Hansie Cronje was flying back to Georgia, from Johannesburg, to be with his wife Bertha. He couldn’t board the regular flight to Johannesburg and decided to go by a cargo plane which was boarded by him and two pilots. The plane had crashed into the Outeniqua mountains and the three of them lost their lives instantly.
The disrepute of trading self-dignity in return for money and a ‘leather jacket’. According to his confession in front of the King Commission, appointed by the Cricket Board of South Africa, it was his ‘unfortunate love for money’ which made him go awry.
On April 7, 2000: sometime after the completion of South Africa’s successful tour of India, Delhi Police claimed to have a transcript of a telephonic conversation between Cronje and a member of the Indian betting syndicate, Sanjay Chawla.
On April 9, 2000: Cronje denied all allegations, saying, “I have never received any sum of money for any match that I have been involved in and have never approached any of the players and asked them if they wanted to fix a game”, but soon on 11th April Cronje called Ali Bacher at 3am to say that he had not been ‘entirely honest’ and admitted to accepting between $10,000 and $15,000 from a London-based bookmaker, for ‘forecasting’ results, not match-fixing.
On April 16, it was revealed that South Africa came close to accepting a $250,000 bribe to throw an international match against India in 1996. Cronje had said the team ‘laughed it off’ as one of his regular ‘practical jokes.’
On June 8, Herschelle Gibbs said that he had agreed to Cronje’s offer of $15,000 to score fewer than 20 runs in the in the 5th ODI, at Nagpur, but went to make 74 runs.
On June 15, Henry Williams admitted to having received money for giving away pre-match information to bookmakers but denied to have ‘thrown’ or ‘fixed’ a match.
On June 26, Cronje broke into tears before the King Commission as he begged for forgiveness saying, “There is no excuse and I have let the team, the fans, and the game down.”
With the sudden turn of events, it also came out that the only voluntarily forfeited innings in Test history, between South Africa and England, was also a victim of Cronje’s fixing saga. South Africa had eventually lost the Test but was honored for his heroic approach, but it’s only sad to learn how the entire cricket fraternity was deceived and so was the then English captain, Nasser Hussain who still recalls the incident as disgraceful.
October 2000: he was permanently banned from Cricket which he tried to fight by law but all his attempts failed.
After one year had passed since the ban, he was trying to find redemption and by that time law had allowed him to coach in private, attend cricket matches as a spectator, and also work with the media. But the universe had other plans for Cronje as he died in that portentous plane crash almost 4 months prior to his 33rd birthday. In his 68 Tests, he scored 3,714 runs at 36.41 and claimed 43 wickets at 29.95. He recorded 5,565 runs at an average of 38.64, took 114 wickets at 34.78 with an impressive economy rate of 4.44, and bagged 72 catches in his ODI career spanning 188 matches. With his ban and his demise and after all these years he remains a hero, a hero of the cult.