When Hanse Cronje (or Hansie Cronje in Afrikaans) died in a plane crash on 1 June, 2002, he would sadly be remembered as the highest-level cricketer to have his name, and career, tarnished by allegations of match fixing. However, he was an exceptional talent who rose at the tender age of 24 to captain his country and continued to do so for 53 of his 68 Test matches.
His Rising Star
Wessel Johannes Cronje was born in Bloemfontein on 25 September 1969, into an Afrikaner family. He went to school at Grey College, in Bloemfontein, before heading off to the University of Orange Free State. He was an all-rounder, batting and bowling, medium pace, right-handed, and first appeared for Orange Free State against Transvaal in 1987 while still only 18. Cronje went on to captain them the same season he made his international debut (1990-91) when he was only 21, before deputising for Kepler Wessels as national captain aged 24 in a match against Australia. A year later he took on the role permanently for the remainder of his international career. He joined Leicestershire as their overseas player in 1995 and also had a stint with Ireland.
Cronje had appeared in South Africa's first Test following their re-admission into the International Cricket Board family in 1992 against the West Indies. The 1992 series against India was a highlight in his career. In the first one day match he achieved his best bowling figures, in any match, of 5 for 32. And in December he achieved his maiden Test Century - his score of 135 was to prove to be his largest contribution with a bat in a test innings. He was a bright young star in the re-emergence of the United Cricket Board of South Africa's national team. However he was against the UCB's tokenism in the early days1 and this came to a head in a series in New Zealand.
He led the national team for five years including series wins over England in 19962 and India in 2000, his last appearance for his country. A loss of form during a tour of England led him to offer his resignation but this was turned down by the UCB and he continued in the role until more than his form deserted him.
In total he appeared in 68 Tests making 3714 runs. He also has the greatest win/loss record of any of his contemporaries as captain.
In the late '90s, however, allegations started to surface that a number of leading players including Cronje had been involved in influencing a number of matches for Indian bookmakers. However, the head of the UCB Dr Ali Bacher fully backed his captain when these allegations first surfaced. He never swerved from this position of support, until Cronje finally admitted he had been approached to throw a one-off international at Bombay in December 1996; the bookmakers had offered him and the team a quarter of a million US dollars to do so.
The reason for such loyalty was that many previous stories had arisen from the sub-continent3 had proved to be unfounded and much disinformation and inaccuracy still emanated from that direction. However, there was other evidence against Cronje not linked directly to Indian rumours, for example ball tampering (including standing on a ball during a one-day match in Sydney, Australia). But instances like this are rare outside the sub-continent, so until his own confession very few people believed that this good, Christian boy from the Orange Free state could be involved with something like this.
He resigned the captaincy and was banned for life in 2000, after winning his last series as captain against India. Just before his death his rehabilitation had started when the courts cleared him to be involved in coaching or reporting cricket though the playing ban remained.
On the morning of 1 June, 2002, Cronje left Johannesburg in a small plane with two other passengers. It came down in the Outeniqua mountains, outside the city of George, Western Cape Province, about 500 kilometres east of Cape Town, where it had been unable to land due to poor weather.
Hanse Cronje's Stats
|Matches||Runs||Average||High Score||Wickets||Average||Best Bowling|
|Tests||68||3714||36.41||135||43||29.95||3 for 14|
|ODI4||188||5565||38.64||112||114||34.78||5 for 32|
|First Class Matches||184||12103||43.69||251||116||34.43||4 for 47|
|List A Limited Overs||303||9855||42.29||158||170||33.50||5 for 32|