Wessel Johannes Hansie
b. September 25, 1969, Bloemfontein,
Orange Free State, South Africa
d. June 1, 2002, George, Western Cape, South Africa
The next five, ten, twenty years will probably
determine how people remember me. People will remember me for
last April, but also I hope for the way I
have lived my life afterwards, the fact that I was willing to
get out in public, to try to make a difference and not hide
I remember the day Hansie died clearly. It was a Saturday,
a hot Saturday, possibly the first decent
Saturday of the summer. We were
sitting by the river in Kingston, a merry group of South Africans living in London and pining for the sun.
We had all we needed: a big bag of crisps, a 3 litre box
of South African wine, a few cups, but mostly the
sun. Life was good.
One of us heard the beep of his mobile phone: a text
message from home.
HANSIE IS DEAD. PLANE CRASH THIS AFTERNOON IN GEORGE.
It was enough to penetrate our alcohol-fuelled numbness:
A cry almost in unison, we then all grabbed for our own mobile
phones to text home and make sure it wasn't a sick hoax. Sad confirmation
issued forth, and we set about the grim task of spreading the bush
telegraph amongst the rest of our South African
friends in London.
It puts everything into perspective, doesn't it?
At times like this we can look around and ask, truly, how
important was the match-fixing scandal? Of course it damaged
the game and it was wrong, but I'll judge him by
what he was to me -- a mate and a great cricketer.
The words match-fixing and Hansie Cronje will always be associated
together and that's understandable but he was far more than that.
He actually persuaded me that I was good enough to play
international cricket and that changed my life. The thing that
gets to me more than just about anything is the pain and hurt that
the Cronje family has had to endure over the last two years. Can
any family be expected to go through that?
Matthews, former Western Province cricket captain, South
African vice captain in 1995 and presently national administrator
and marketing manager for Western Province.
Hansie Cronje was born into a cricketing family.
Father, NE (Ewie) Cronje, represented the Orange Free State
(OFS) between 1960-71 and at one point served as President of the
OFS Cricket Union (OFSCU). Older brother, FJC Cronje, also played
first class cricket, representing all of OFS, OFS B, Griqualand
West, Border and Border B, between 1986-95.
Hansie attended the local Grey College, an dual-medium boys'
school, the Bloemfontein Grey College is the oldest school north
of the Orange River and the third-oldest school in South
Africa. Hansie finished top of his class. At home, Hansie spoke Afrikaans to his father and mother (San-Marie). After school, he
attended the local University of the Orange Free State (UOFS).
The makings of a Cricket Legend
During his last three years at school (1985-1988), Hansie
represented the OFS at the national Nuffield Week competition.
In the latter two years, his performance at Nuffield Week earned
him selection into the SA Schools team. An honour of course, I'm
stumped as to whom they competed against.
Hansie Cronje is a man my
generation grew up with. He made his first class debut for the Orange Free State in Johannesburg in 1987. He batted
right handed and bowled medium pace. I could not discover
whether his team won or lost, or his batting and bowling
During the late 80's, the cultural boycott was still firmly
in place, part of the international sanctions seeking the end of
apartheid. Under the boycott, South Africa was prohibited
from competing in the international sporting arenas. As a result,
our domestic sporting scene flourished under overwhelming
provincial rivalry. During the winter there was cut-throat Currie
Cup rugby, during the summer there was Night Cricket.
When Hansie Cronje made his international debut1
at the 1991/2 Cricket World Cup in Australia, he was already
a household name. South Africans for two
- Jonty Rhodes and that run-out
- Rain interrupting play in the semi-final, reducing the number
of overs. The scoreboard ticked down, eventually landing on
"South Africa need 22 runs off 1 ball", shattering
the nation's hopes of a fairytale come-back to the international
In 1994, aged 24 years, Hansie replaced an injured Kepler
Wessels as the South African cricket captain. It
was the third match of a home series against our rugby
archrivals, New Zealand. Wessels decided to bow out from
international cricket and Hansie stayed on at the helm.
In the 1995 off-season, Hansie ventured ashore to play for Leicestershire.
He performed with distinction, scoring 1,301 runs at an average
Hansie had a phenomenal winning record as captain, leading his
team with military precision. In 1996, fully five years after
their return to international cricket, South Africa play their
first 5-match, 5-day Test cricket series, against England.
Fast forward to 1999 and again it's Cricket World Cup time,
this time co-hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, a
feat of remarkable politics... perhaps. The event was marred by Australia's
refusal to play in Sri Lanka, fearing for their safety in
the wake of the ongoing Tamil Tigers hostilities occasionally
referred to as a Civil War. A defaulted match, but still Australia
make it through to the semi-final, only to meet South Africa.
Sadly yet another case of spectacular run-outs and bitter
defeat for South Africa to take home, in place of the coveted
Cup. This time, Lance Klusener and Allan Donald find
themselves in the firing line in the last over.
White Lightning is a master pace
bowler, one of the best in the world, ever. He is not quite as
adept with the bat, rarely scoring into double figures on the odd
occasions that he has had to bat in One Day International (ODI)
cricket. Indeed, he rarely featured higher in the order than
Number 11. Zulu, on the other hand, is
a thorn in many a team's side in the ODI arena. His ability to
punish a bowler with boundary after boundary is not for the feint
hearted. The scene that unfolded was one that we stage Cricket
World Cups to achieve: match drawn, two balls left, Zulu at the
The bowler delivered a great ball. Zulu clips it,
behind himself, it doesn't go far. After upwards of 9 hours of
play, the two batsmen will have to be damn quick to get a run in.
White Lightning, with the best view of the ball, has the
call. There's a ball left, there's still time. He stands his
Zulu does not even look at his batting partner or
where the ball went. He runs, hollering all the way to White
Lightning. White Lightning is caught off guard,
does not budge. Both batsmen are left standing on the same side
of the wicket. The fielder has simply to stroll to the stumps and
break the bales. The game is tied, Australia go through. South
Africa is heartbroken once again.2
Hansie has now participated in two World Cups but has not yet
tasted victory. Still a sprightly 30, there is good reason to
hold out for third time lucky in 2003, on home ground.
Fall from Grace
Hansie Cronje was proud of his Christian faith, and the Born
Again Christian community were proud of him. His excellent
relationship with Pastor Ray McCauley of the phenomenal RHEMA
Church was a matter of common knowledge. Hansie was viewed as one
of the boys, a mate, a role model for children of the Rainbow Nation, he was a saint.
In January 2000, South Africa played England in a 5 Test
Series. South Africa had already won the series, being 2-0 up (with
two matches drawn) going into the last leg. Rain interrupted play
over the 5 days, with a draw seeming the obvious result. Surprisingly,
however, Hansie agreed to forfeit an
innings -- in order to force a result -- and South Africa ended
up losing, for the first time in 16 matches.
In March 2000, South Africa toured to India for an ODI
series. On April 7, 2000, the rumour mill starts, but nobody
can believe what the Indian police are saying. Eventually, he is
charged by the Indian police with match-fixing. Initially Hansie
denied the charges -- and had the entire nation behind him -- but
ultimately, on April 11, 2000, after a rumoured midnight
confession to Pastor Ray McCauley, he gave in and he admitted
that he had not quite been honest. He was then dropped from the
team for the ODI series against Australia.
In the coming months, the Indian police continue their
investigation and the South African United
Cricket Board (UCB) calls in the King commission to undertake
their own investigation. During May and June, Hansie cooperated
fully with the King Commission, telling how he approached team
mates Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams about
under performing in a ODI match. He also admits to accepting US$130,000
from bookmakers over a 4 year period. He denied that he ever
fixed a match, and was quoted as saying:
I tried to live a Christian life and walk the way
the Lord wanted me to walk... ...I allowed Satan and the
world to dictate terms to me.
Heaven alone knows why Hansie would do such a silly thing. His
contract with the UCB would have amounted to more than the $130,000,
and he was no fool. Heaven only knows why Herschelle Gibbs and
Henry Williams didn't tell him he'd lost his mind, or indeed
why his best friends, fellow Born Agains Johnty
Rhodes and vice captain Shaun Pollock didn't lift him off the
backsliding slope. Nevertheless, they didn't.
There is an element of farce to the Herschelle Gibbs saga.
Indeed, to Gibbs' career from that point on.
Jacques Kallis is painted as the dim lantern in the team, but Herschelle
Gibbs, after accepting money to score less than 20, went on to
play a great innings. Questioned on it, he reported that on the field
he'd forgotten about the bribe. Gibbs
was banned for 6 months and on his return to international cricket,
went on a tour of the West Indies, where he was among the few
players caught smoking weed in his hotel room. Fined ten
thousand Rand, he was then ordered onto a life skills
In October of 2000, after the findings of the King Commission,
the UCB banned Hansie Cronje from all forms of participation in
cricket for the rest of his life. His team mates who had also
been implicated had gotten off extremely lightly -- a six month
ban in Gibbs' and Williams'
case, for example. You'll be hard-pressed to find a South African whom you can convince that Hansie didn't
take one for the team, offer himself up as a scapegoat. Sadly
he seems to be the international cricket scapegoat, for he was
hardly the only international cricketer implicated for match-fixing
by those Indian authorities. The majorityof those blacklisted by the Indian police are still
playing international cricket today.
In January 2001, Hansie launched a court bid to overturn the
lifetime ban. The ban prevented him from playing, coaching,
umpiring or commentating on any cricket game or team
under the banner of the UCB. This meant, that, should he one day
be blessed with a son to carry on the Cronje cricketing
tradition, he would not be able to coach his school team. It also
meant that he was prevented from giving back to South Africa
any of his cricketing skills. What a waste of a phenomenal
talent, incomparable experience, and the awesome charisma of one
of the country's most popular ambassadors. (The South African people could forgive him, even if the UCB
could not. Spokesperson Wim Trengove said: "Cronje is a
cheat by his own confession.")
Hansie takes his punishment like a man, like a Christian. He
refuses to be embittered and remains in South Africa. He and his
wife of five years, Bertha, give occasional joint interviews and
speak of awesome support, from family, friends and former colleagues.
"Jonty's [Rhodes] first love is
not me, it's my wife. He and his wife really love my wife Bertha.
They've been so supportive because her life was turned upside down.
He's the best team-mate I've ever played with and he's proved that
again now. Now his responsibility is not to Hansie the captain, but
to Hansie the individual and husband of Bertha."
July 2001, Hansie says that he does not want to play cricket
again, but would like to coach South Africa one day, perhaps.
He denies renewed allegations that he has secret bank accounts
stashed away. He speaks of his frustration at the ban because he
wants to coach children, help them buy equipment, particularly
the children of the poverty-stricken townships.
Hansie had been playing first class cricket since his final
year at school. He had been a full-time professional cricketer
since 1988, his first year out of school. He began studying for a
second degree to pass the time and started a club for disabled
athletes. In October, the Pretoria High Court thew out his
appeal. The ban is to stay in place, but he may now take part in
coaching and media activities. It is a small victory, and he at
least can earn his keep and put his remarkable skills to use.
It's a pretty tough thing when you take someone's
livelihood away. I've had that for 17 months; it was also
public so I've had a double humiliation. Financially, if you
add up all the knocks, it adds up to about 2.5 million Rand. If that's not bad enough,
I wouldn't know what is. I carried all my legal costs, I was
on my own.
While the cricket money may have dried up, along with his
endorsement money, the well wasn't entirely dry. In selling his
story around the world, he made £100,000 -- recouped half of
what he lost. He says it wasn't even enough to pay his legal bill.
He also received numerous book offers, all of which he flatly
Throughout his cricketing career, Hansie and Bertha had spent around
three months a year together. The pair moved to George, a large
industrial town near the coast and an hours' drive from
picturesque Knysna. George lies at the foot of the towering Outeniqua
Mountains that separate it from the Ostrich farming town of Oudtsoorn.
The couple moved into the Fancourt Golf Estate, home to South Africa's rich and famous, developed by German
philanthropist, Sabine Plattner3.
Interviewer: Was there ever time when things got a little bit
dodgy in your relationship, in your marriage, was there ever a
time that maybe this got between the two of you and you thought
of perhaps splitting up?
Bertha: There's never been such a time,
no. We've made a commitment to each other five years ago, and its
a sacred covenant and no, we never thought of doing that.
Interviewer: Hansie has mentioned that he was
interested in starting a family, what are your thoughts on that?
Bertha: I don't know where he got that
from, no, but a, no, we definitely would like to have some children
someday, but no, not in the near future.
In February 2002, Hansie is appointed as a financial manager
to a Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed company, Bell
Equipment Ltd. The job was based in Johannesburg, so he would
work in the city during the week and commute back to George on
weekends to be with his wife. On the morning of June 1, 2002,
there was a particularly bad hail storm in Johannesburg,
causing mayhem with the traffic. Hansie missed his flight. He
arranged to travel with friends -- two pilots on a cargo plane.
The plane took off and landed in Bloemfontein without
incident, where it delivered the mail. It then took off again and
arrived in George. The weather in George was just as abysmal as
that in Johannesburg. George is a winter rainfall region,
unlike Johannesburg, so at least this weather was not totally out
of character. The plane came in to land, but had to abort the
first landing attempt. As the pilot climbed out of the runway, he
banked to the right to circle and land on the second attempt.
Both the pilot and the co-pilot were commercial pilots with
more than a decade of experience between them. The wind blows North
East when it rains in the South Cape. Planes always take off and
land into the wind, so the plane would have approached
the runway with the sea on the left and the towering Outeniqua
Mountains on the right. They flew into a solid cloud. The three
died on impact. The plane did not ignite. When the bodies were
retrieved, later that day, there was not a scratch on them.
Hansie's funeral was attended by a who's who of South African cricket. Unable to forgive during his life,
suddenly upon his death the UCB found their grace. Peter Pollock,
former convenor of the national team and father of Hansie's
successor and good friend, Shaun Pollock, addressed the
Hansie led from the front. He believed in winning,
in excellence - there were no alternatives. The statistics
speak for themselves, they are a testamony of Hansie's
- One Day International (ODI) debut. Test
debut was the same season (1991) in Bridgetown v. the West
Indies, and may have preceded the World Cup. It is also worth
noting that the 1991 Cricket World Cup was South
Africa's first major international sporting tournament since
the abolition of sanctions.
- The game was held on a week night. I had
the misfortune of being in Sydney at the time, and had
stayed up until 4am to watch. The first time I saw that
run-out was one time too many. I then had to face the
newspapers the next day after 3 hours' sleep, and was
mortified to discover the footage included in a TV ad
which ran for several weeks.
Australia went on to meet the West Indies in the
final, and came out victorious. We was robbed.
- Sabine Plattner maintains a large string
of racehorses in Cape Town. Her daughter, Kristina,
lives with one-time leading jockey, now crack addict, Andre
du Preez. A few days before moving to England in 2000,
Andre proposed to me, while living with Tina.
OH YEAH BABY I SNUBBED HIM!
One Day Internationals
played 188, captain on 138 occasions -- 99 victoriously (72%)
debut: v. Australia, 1991/2 World Cup, Sydney
M I No Runs Hs Ave 100 50 Ct St
179 167 29 5210 112 37.75 2 36 68 0
O M R W Ave Best 4w 5w Sr Econ
850.5 31 3704 110 33.67 5/32 1 1 46.4 4.35
debut: v. West Indies, 1991, Bridgetown
played 68, captain on 53 occasions
M I No Runs Hs Ave 100 50 Ct St
66 108 9 3689 135 37.26 6 23 32 0
O M R W Ave Best 5w 10w Sr Econ
599.2 231 1205 37 32.56 3/14 0 0 97.1 2.01
For a full list of his Test statistics, see http://www.thatscricket.com/matchfixing/cronje.