Bring back Hansie... as an example
Hansie Cronje is one of world cricket's most valuable assets and the
United Cricket Board of South Africa fails to realise it. Cronje has the status
of a unique breed of modern ex-cricketer - one suspended for self-confessed
match-fixing sins. His experience is of considerable value to world
cricket, if only it was harnessed.
Having a person with Cronje's knowledge and experience of the darkest side of the game ever known lurking in limbo - or forever cast aside in purgatory, if the UCB had its way - is a profligate waste of resources.
Forgiveness? Not at all. But it is counter-productive and petty not to
utilise such a figure as a tool not to help rid the game of those still
involved with bookmakers, for we can be fairly certain Cronje has revealed
as much as he ever will, but as someone who can prevent those liaisons
occurring in the future. As we know, prevention is better than cure, and
failing to use Cronje in order to make a political point does not benefit
Regardless of how many bank accounts Cronje has, it's time to bring him
back in a capacity that helps cricket, if he is willing. There is still a
disturbing sense of denial pervading cricket and it would do well to
confront its demons, of which Cronje certainly is one.
In terms of international publicity the match-fixing issue is in relative recession,
simmering away in the background, but it's only a matter of time before it
explosively re-ignites, most likely in a couple of months when Cronje
challenges his ban in court. A successful appeal there would be enormously
embarrassing to world cricket, so it would be better to initiate
preventative measures by taking early control of the situation.
Cronje has revealed himself through his actions to be an unscrupulous,
greedy man. After more than a year spent feeling sorry for himself and
blaming the devil, the return to the public cricket world he seeks is
doubtless motivated in part by what he can earn. As the first and so far
only case of being a confessed taker-of-money-to-fix-events-within-matches,
as opposed to directly trying to lose, Cronje's post-scandal financial
opportunities were ironically always going to be huge. He has already
reportedly received considerable sums to reveal his thoughts and a
lucrative book deal can't be far away.
One way or another, Cronje was going to return to public life and make
money, confronting us all again. Given that, it is only logical that he be
used in a way that can best serve world cricket, a role that the UCB has
thus far been slow to accept. Excessive punishment is effectively useless.
Other than being suspended from ever playing, coaching or administrating
again at a representative level, further measures are little more than a
The UCB, or even better the ICC, should appoint Cronje as an adviser and
lecturer on corruption in cricket. Unpalatable as it may sound, it serves
a far greater purpose than him being contracted to a television network for
commentary duty. More than coaching, the use cricket has for Cronje is as
the world's most recognisable spokesman on corruption.
Currently, as part of their training at national cricket academies, young
cricketers are reportedly educated on the pitfalls of corruption. Reading
warnings and lists of do's and don'ts when called by the friendly local
bookie is all very well, but does not necessarily relate to the real
world. Cronje could be used as a graphic figurehead to ram home the message that
corruption is ruinous, with consequences not worth risking. It would be
the most positive and pro-active step the ICC has taken in the entire saga,
since it is seemingly unable to uncover evidence to ban anyone else.
Forget the current generation of international stars. The guilty ones, and
surely there can be no doubt in light of all the allegations that the
ranks of international players still include the corrupt, are too far gone and
are unlikely to ever be caught. They have either got away or were never
identified in the first place. We can only ensure that their practices
leave with them. They can never be learned from because, after all, they are
clean. Mukesh who?
Cronje is very different, and that's why he has to be used. In the United
States, the professional sports leagues educate young draftees on the
hazards of being a highly paid pro, which includes corruption. Processes
are in place to target the young and vulnerable players, which is the most
effective measure of all. It's a sensible and typically professional
approach. The National Football League even discourages any references to
sports gambling, with teams not allowed to accept advertising from
gambling establishments. Cricket is obviously restricted from imposing similar
rules due to its international nature, but you have to wonder at the impression
being created when Brian Lara, one of the sport's leading players who
himself has been accused of accepting money from Gupta to under-perform,
is sponsored by gambling company Intertops.
It has been acknowledged that rooting out corruption is a slow and
laborious process. It does not end with the 2003 World Cup, as Sir Paul Condon
wants. We can't take action and then blithely accept that it has now stopped,
which admittedly the Anti-Corruption Unit also acknowledges. Illegal bookies and
susceptible players will always remain. The bookies can't be stopped, but
the weak-willed players can be warned and educated in such a forceful way
that temptation is at least reduced.
Herschelle Gibbs is one such malleable player who, though seemingly
obtuse could probably have been dissuaded from taking money with the right system
in place. Basically, it's cricket's only hope. The answer lies in the next
generation, the teenagers now in the cricket academies who are approaching
first-class cricket and those even younger who are just taking up the game
and have lived through the issue.
What is the message they will have taken from all this? Honestly, it is a
confusing one. A mere handful punished, countless others free. The record
of the authorities is hardly an imposing deterrent. Hopefully, it is enough to
believe that corruption is not profitable. Unfortunately, all too much
circumstantial evidence suggests that it is.
Mail Daniel Laidlaw