Sunday, March 16, 2003

Fuck You, Hansie Cronje

(Yes, one isn't supposed to speak ill of the dead. In this case I can't help it).

This piece (ultimately from the Sunday Telegraph of London) on the corruption of former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje makes depressing reading. The man had more than 70 secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, in addition to 27 bank accounts in South Africa. As one of the investigators puts it, "He was a crook". The article suggests that at the peak of the game's corruption, the world's professional cricket players (and perhaps umpires) were between them receiving as much as $3 million dollars a month from bookmakers, and that many and perhaps most of the games being played in the world were being influenced in this way. Although the results of cricket matches are not being influenced by bookmakers as much as they were, it is still happening. The article also suggests that the South African government ended the enquiry into the murky underworld Cronje was caught in because it simply did not want the country to be embarassed by the extent of all this leading into the World Cup.

When I heard Cronje was dead, I assumed he had been murdered. It isn't surprising for someone who got mixed up in that whole underground world of Bombay gangsters that seems to encompass the Bollywood film industry, subcontinental gambling, and quite possibly gun running and terrorism to die suddenly in mysterious circumstances, and Cronje had managed to get mixed up in that kind of thing. When I head how he died (a small plane crashed while landing) I wasn't so sure: there are easier ways to have somebody bumped off. However, I am still suspicious, and as it becomes clear how entagled with this kind of thing Cronje was (ie very), I remain that way.

And yet, the South Africans still seem to look back at the time of Cronje's captaincy as a golden age that occurred before the fall from paradise, or something like that. I have said this before, but their inability to accept the seriousness of the corruption crisis is another indication of the seriousness of the general malaise that has gripped the game in that country.

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