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Hansie Cronje

Wessel Johannes "Hansie" Cronje (September 25, 1969 - June 1, 2002) was a South African cricketer and captain of the South African national cricket team in the 1990s. He was voted the 11th greatest South African in 2004 despite having been banned for life from professional cricket for his role in a match-fixing scandal.

Early life

Born in Bloemfontein, Cronje matriculated in 1987 from the prestigious Grey College school in Bloemfontein. An excellent all round sportsman, he represented the then Orange Free State in cricket and rugby at schools level. Cronje also went to the University of Orange Free State and there he left with a Bachelor of Commerce (also known as a 'B-Com').

His father Ewie had played for Orange Free State in the 1960s, and Hansie's older brother Frans had also played first-class cricket.

First-class career

Cronje made his first-class debut for Orange Free State against Transvaal at Johannesburg in January 1988 at the age of 18. In the following season he was a regular appearing in all eight Currie Cup matches plus being part of the Benson and Hedges Series winning team, scoring 73 as an opener in the final. In 1989/90, despite playing all the Currie Cup matches, he failed to make a century, and averaged only 19.76; however, in one-day games he averaged 60.12. During that season he scored his maiden century for South African Universities against Mike Gatting's rebels .

Despite having just turned 21, Cronje was made captain of Orange Free State for the 1990/1 season. He scored his maiden century for them against Natal in December 1990, and finished the season with another century and a total of 715 runs at 39.72. That season he also scored 159* in a 40-over match against Griqualand West.

In 1992/3 he captained Orange Free State to the Castle Cup/Total Power Series double.

In 1995 Cronje appeared for Leicestershire where he scored 1301 runs at 52.04 finishing the season as the county's leading scorer. In 1995/6 he finished the season top of the batting averages in the Currie Cup his top score of 158 helped Free State chase down 389 to beat Northern Transvaal .

In 1997, Cronje played for Ireland as an overseas player in the Benson and Hedges Cup and helped them to a 46-run win over Middlesex by scoring 94 not out and taking three wickets . This was Ireland's first ever win against English county opposition . Later in the same competition he scored 85 and took 1 wicket against Glamorgan .

International career

Debuts

Cronje's form in 1991/2 was impressive especially in the one-day format where he averaged 61.40. He earned an international call up for the 1992 World Cup, making his One Day International debut against Australia at Sydney. During the tournament he played in eight of the team's nine games, averaging 34.00 with the bat while his medium pace was used bowling 20 overs.

After the World Cup Cronje was part of the tour to the West Indies; he featured in the three ODI's and in the Test match at Bridgetown that followed he made his Test debut, this was South Africa first Test since readmission and they came close to beating a strong West Indian side, going into the final day at 122/2 chasing 200 they collapsed to 148.

India toured South Africa in 1992/3. In the one-day series Cronje managed just one fifty but with the ball he was economical and took his career best figures of 5/32, becoming the second South African to take 5 wickets in an ODI . In the Test series that followed he scored his maiden test century, 135 off 411 balls, after coming in at 0-1 in the second over he was last man out, after eight and three-quarter hours, in a total of 275. This contributed to South Africa's first Test win since readmission. At the end of the season in a triangular tournament with Pakistan and West Indies he scored 81 off 70 balls against Pakistan.

In South Africa's next Test series against Sri Lanka Cronje scored his second Test century, 122 in the second Test in Colombo; the victory margin of an innings and 208 runs is a South African record. He finished the series with 237 runs at 59.25 after scoring 73* in the drawn third Test.

Stand-in captain

In 1993/4 there was another Castle Cup/Total Power Series double for Orange Free State. In international cricket he was named as vice-captain for the tour of Australia despite being the youngest member of the squad. In the first ODI of the triangular tournament with New Zealand and Australia he guided South Africa to victory against Australia with 91* which won him the man of the match award. He scored 71 in a rain affected first Test at Melbourne before a tense second Test that South Africa won by 5 runs, an injury to captain Kepler Wessels meant Cronje was captain for the final day of the match. Between the second and third Tests the one-day tournament continued, now with Cronje as captain, South Africa made the final series but lost it 2-1 to Australia. He became South Africa's second-youngest Test captain, after Murray Bisset in 1898-99, when he led the team for the third Test at Adelaide but it was an unsuccessful start to his captaincy career as the series was squared.

In February 1994 there was the return series as Australia toured South Africa. Cronje started the ODI series with scores of 112, 97, 45 and 50* and when Australia played Orange Free State in their final match before the first Test, Cronje hit 251 off 306 balls, 200 of these came on the final day in which 294 runs were added, despite this Orange Free State lost the match. In the first Test at Johannesburg he added another century as South Africa won by 197 runs. This innings was the end of a 14 day period in which he'd scored 721 runs against the Aussies. However he failed to reach fifty in the next two Tests and four ODIs as both series were drawn.

There was another drawn series when South Africa toured England in 1994, Cronje scoring just one century on the whole tour and scored only 90 runs in the three-Test series. In October 1994, South Africa again came up against Australia, in a triangular one-day series also featuring Pakistan, Cronje scored 354 runs at an average of 88.50 but despite this South Africa lost all their matches . This series was Bob Woolmer's first as coach and Kepler Wessels' last as captain. Cronje who'd previously been vice-captain was named as captain for the Test series with New Zealand in 1994/5.

Permanent captain

South Africa lost the first Test in Johannesburg but before the second Test the two teams plus Pakistan and Sri Lanka competed for the Mandela Trophy, New Zealand failed to gain a win in the six match round robin stage while South Africa beat Pakistan in the final. This changed the momentum as South Africa secured wins in Durban and Cape Town, where Cronje scored his fourth Test century, he was the first captain since W. G. Grace to win a three-match rubber after being one down. In early 1995 South Africa won one-off Tests against both Pakistan and New Zealand, in Auckland Cronje scored the only century of the match before a final day declaration left his bowlers just enough time to dismiss the Kiwis.

In October 1995 South Africa won a one-off Test with Zimbabwe, Cronje scoring a second innings 54* to guide them to seven wicket win. In the two one-dayers that followed he took five wickets as South Africa won both comfortably. South Africa won the five Test series against England 1-0 despite Cronje struggling, scoring just 113 runs at 18.83. However, he top scored in the one-day series which they won 6-1.

In the 1996 World Cup he scored 78 and 45* against New Zealand and Pakistan respectively as South Africa won their group but in the Quarter final with West Indies a Brian Lara century ended their 10 game winning streak.

1996/97 featured back-to-back series with India, the first away was lost 2-1 the home series was won 2-0, in the six Tests combined Cronje managed just one fifty. Cronje produced better form against Australia averaging over 50 in both Test and ODI series although both were lost.

Cronje started 1997/98 by leading South Africa to their first series victory in Pakistan, his batting continued to struggle with his biggest contribution being taking the wickets of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Moin Khan in the Third Test .

Better form

Cronje once again came up against Australia and once again ended on the losing side. In the triangular one day series they won the group with Australia just scrapping through, they also won the first 'final' but South Africa lost the last two finals. During the group matches Cronje had threatened to lead his team off after Pat Symcox had missiles thrown at him, Symcox had the last laugh ending the match with 4/24. Before the Test series started he scored consecutive centuries against Tasmania and Australia A these were his first in two years.

In the first Test, Cronje scored 70 as South Africa saved the match; in the second Test, he lasted 335 minutes for his 88. Despite this, they lost by an innings. In the third Test, they scored 517 and although Mark Taylor carried his bat for 169, Australia needed to bat 109 overs to save the match. Mark Waugh batted 404 minutes, and, despite controversy when Waugh hit one of his bails off (under Law 35 he was adjudged to have finished his stroke and therefore given not out), South Africa fell three wickets short. Cronje put a stump through the umpires` dressing room door after the match and was lucky to avoid a ban .

Cronje missed the first Test of the series with Pakistan because of a knee injury. The second Test at Durban was lost, but he top scored at Port Elizabeth with 85, to help square the three Test series 1-1. There was still time in the season for a two-Test series with Sri Lanka. The first was won with Cronje scoring 49 and 74; in the second Test, he took 3/14, his best bowling in Tests, and smashed 82 off 63 balls, his fifty being brought up with three consecutive sixes off Muttiah Muralitharan, and was reached off just 31 balls; at the time, it was the second fastest in Tests after Kapil Dev`s. In the triangular series, which South Africa won, he scored only one fifty at East London where he also took 2/17 off 10 overs .

During the 1998 Test series against England, Cronje scored five consecutive fifties, having failed to score one in the nine previous Tests against them. In his fiftieth Test, at Trent Bridge he scored 126, his sixth and last Test century and his first in 29 matches. During his second innings of 67, he passed 3,000 runs - only the second South African to do so . However, England won the Test, and the one at Headingley, to win the series 2-1, Cronje finished the series as South Africa's top scorer with 401 runs at 66.83.

Whitewash, tie and forfeit

In the West Indies series of 1998/9 Cronje captained South Africa to their only whitewash in a 5 Test series . However his best batting against West Indies came when playing for Free State, he scored 158* as they chased down 438 and made up a first innings deficit of 249 . In the ODI series he was South Africa's top scorer and took 11 wickets at 14.72 as South Africa won 6-1. In March 1999 they toured New Zealand beating them 1-0 in the Test series and 3-2 in the one-dayers.

Cronje's form at the 1999 World Cup was poor, finishing with 98 runs at 12.25 as South Africa was eliminated after the famous tied Semi-final against Australia at Edgbaston. In their first match of the tournament versus India, Cronje came onto the field with an earpiece wired to coach Bob Woolmer at the first drinks break match referee Talat Ali ordered him to remove it .

In October 1999 Cronje became South Africa's highest Test run scorer during the first Test against Zimbabwe . The two Test series was won 2-0 thanks to innings victories. The series with England was won in the fourth Test at Cape Town, Cronje's fiftieth as captain.

The fifth test of the 1999/2000 South Africa v England series at Centurion was ruined by rain - going into the final day only 45 overs had been possible with South Africa 155/6. On the final morning as they batted on news filtered through that the captains had met and were going to "make a game of it". A target of 250 from 70 overs was agreed. When South Africa reached 248/8 Cronje declared; both teams then forfeited an innings leaving England a target of 249 to win the Test, which they did with two wickets left and only five balls remaining. It ended South Africa's 14 game unbeaten streak in Test cricket. Cronje was later learnt to have accepted money and a gift from a bookmaker in return for making an early declaration in this Test (see below).

Cronje top scored with 56 after South Africa were left reeling at 21-5 in the Final of the triangular tournament which featured England and Zimbabwe . Cronje struggled against India in his final Test series scoring just 25 runs in two Tests (he took six wickets) however South Africa were still able to complete their first series win in India. India's first lost series at home since 1987.

On 31 March 2000 his cricket career finished with a 73-ball 79 against Pakistan in the final of Sharjah Cup 1999/00 .

Career record

Under Cronje's captaincy South Africa won 27 Tests and lost 11, completing series victories against every team except Australia. He captained them in a record number of Tests and to a record number of victories . He captained the One-Day International team to 99 wins out of 138 matches with one tied match and three no results. Again he holds the South African record for matches captained in and matches won as captain. His 99 wins as captain makes him the third most successful captain worldwide in terms of matches won, behind Ricky Ponting and Allan Border, and in terms of percentage of wins (73.70), behind Ponting and Clive Lloyd . Between September 1993 and March 2000 he played in 162 consecutive ODIs, a South African record .

Match fixing

On 7 April 2000, Delhi police revealed they had a recording of a conversation between Cronje and Sanjay Chawla, a representative of an Indian betting syndicate, over match-fixing allegations. Three other players: Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom were also implicated. On 8 April 2000 the UCBSA (United Cricket Board of South Africa) denied that any of their players were involved in match-fixing, Cronje said "the allegations are completely without substance" . However, on April 11 Cronje was sacked as captain after confessing to Ali Bacher that he had not been "entirely honest". He admitted accepting between $10,000 and $15,000 from a London-based bookmaker for 'forecasting' results, not match fixing, during the recent one day series in India.

On 7 June the King Commission began. The following day Gibbs revealed that Cronje had offered him $15,000 to score less than 20 runs in the 5th ODI at Nagpur. He also admitted another offer of $15,000 to Henry Williams to concede more than 50 runs in that same match. Gibbs scored 74 off 53 balls and Williams injured his shoulder and couldn't complete his second over so neither received the $15,000. Off-spinner Derek Crookes, who was also a witness, admitted being surprised to open the bowling at Nagpur .

On 15 June Cronje released a statement that revealed all his contact with bookmakers. In 1996 during the third Test in Kanpur, he was introduced to Mukesh Gupta by Mohammad Azharuddin. Gupta gave Cronje $30,000 to persuade the South Africans to lose wickets on the last day to lose the match, South Africa were 127/5 chasing 460, Cronje was already out and spoke to no other players "I had received money for doing nothing". During the return tour Cronje received $50,000 from Gupta for team information.

In the 2000 Centurion Test Marlon Aronstam contacted him offering R500,000 for the charity of his choice together with a gift if Cronje declared and made a game of it. He also admitted asking Pieter Strydom to place an R50 bet on South Africa to win for him. After the match Aronstam visited Cronje giving him two amounts of money (R30,000 and R20,000) together with a leather jacket. The promised R500,000 did not materialise. Before the one-day series Cronje received repeated calls from "Sanjay" asking to fix a match, Cronje gave him the names of Gibbs, Strydom and Boje to try and get rid of him. But Cronje was offered $140,000 for the fifth ODI if Gibbs scored under 20, Williams went for more than 50 and South Africa scored around 270.

On 28 August Gibbs and Williams were suspended from playing international cricket for 6 months. Gibbs was also fined R60,000 and Williams R10,000, while Strydom received no punishment .

On 11 October Cronje was banned from playing or coaching cricket for life . He challenged his life ban in September 2001 but on 17 October 2001 his application was dismissed .

Plane crash

On 1 June 2002 Cronje's scheduled flight home from Bloemfontein to George had been grounded so instead he hitched a ride as the only passenger on a cargo flight in a Hawker Siddeley HS 748 turboprop aircraft. Near George airport, the pilots lost visibility in cloud, and were unable to land, partly due to unserviceable navigational equipment. While circling, the plane crashed into the Outeniqua mountains northeast of the airport. Cronje, aged 32, and the two pilots were killed instantly.

In August 2006 an inquest into the plane crash by South Africa's High Court started - the inquest reached the conclusion that "the death of the deceased Wessel Johannes (Hansie) Cronje was brought about by an act or omission prima facie amounting to an offence on the part of pilots."

However, theories that Cronje was murdered - on the orders of a cricket betting syndicate - have flourished since his death, and were most recently re-floated by former Nottinghamshire coach Clive Rice in the wake of the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer in March 2007 . Cronje's alleged involvement in match-fixing, the suspicion of murder in both the Cronje and Woolmer cases and the links between cricketers and betting syndicates have since appeared in the 2008 novel Raffles and the Match-Fixing Syndicate by Adam Corres.

Hansie, a biographical film about the life of Hansie Cronje was released on 26 September 2008. The film was written by older brother Frans Cronje and directed by Regardt van den Bergh. The title role is played by Frank Rautenbach.

See also

References

External links

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