"I know Hansie Cronje very well, he is a man of honour and would never stoop so low. The charges of match-fixing against him and the other guys are just rubbish."
Jacques Kallis, South African cricketer - speaking shortly before the Indian police provided proof of Hansie Cronje's implication in match-fixing.
Born in Bloemfontein on the 25th September, 1969, Wessel Johannes Cronje attended Greys College in Bloemfontein, where he excelled at cricket. By the age of 21 he was Captain of the Free State team, and was playing for South Africa. In 1993, at the age of 24, he was made captain of the team. Noted as a good batter, a decent bowler and an excellent fielder, Cronje was a force to be noted on the cricket field.
A devout Christian, Cronje belonged to Ray McCauley's Rhema church, long known for its history as a church for the rich and famous for South Africa. As a major sponsor of developing cricket for previously disadvantaged persons (PC for backing cricket initiatives among black South Africans who suffered under Apartheid). For this and many other public appearances, Hansie was much loved by the South African public, and was instrumental in upholding the South African cricketing tradition.
In April of 2000, however, the dream began to go sour. Indian police accused Hansie of colluding with one Sanjeev Chawla, an indian bookie who claimed that Hansie and some other South African players had underperformed in certain matches in exchange for money. The initial reaction from the South African public was one of scorn and derision for the Indian police, and Hansie claimed that he knew nothing of the allegations. Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, stoutly defended Hansie's reputation. Four days later, Cronje admitted to Bacher that he had not been entirely honest. He was stripped of his captaincy, while the King Commission conducted an investigation into the scandal.
This admission further shocked the South African people. A public figure, known and acclaimed for his integrity and Christian beliefs, had cheated at a game he loved, and then lied about it. Jokes, satirical cartoons and snide one-liners became the order of the day, and Hansie was seen several times crying on television. His admission of "The devil made me do it" did not hold very much ground, after the King Commission revealed that Hansie had been given, in total, $140,000 (US Dollars). Fellow cricketers Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams were also implicated, and this was even more disturbing, as Henry Williams was one of the disadvantaged players who had, under Hansie's wing, risen to prominence.
Hansie was given a lifetime ban from the world of cricket and all cricketing activities for his sins. His appeal against the ban was rejected in October 2001, possibly due to threats of boycotts by other countries should Hansie be allowed to play. He enrolled in a Masters Degree, and in February 2002 joined the Johannesburg based Bell Equipment Company. Although still looked down on by the South African media, general opinion had changed from outrage to pity, and there was talk of Hansie being allowed to coach cricket.
On the 1st of June, 2002, the plane Hansie took in lieu of his scheduled flight, which had been grounded, crashed, killing all aboard. The accident made frontpage news, and, in a classic example of the duplicity of the media, Hansie was hailed posthumously as a hero for admitting his mistakes. Hansie's funeral was televised nationally, and was attended by thousands. Though still scorned outside of South Africa, Hansie is now viewed as an example of the truth and reconciliation so badly needed in post-apartheid South Africa.
I can't _Believe_ I left this out!
My own memory