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Kirsten reveals more on 'fixing'

Source: PTI
December 04, 2004 16:26 IST
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Startling revelations on former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje's "greed for money" and how he tried to involve the whole team in match fixing have been brought out in a book written by former opening batsman Gary Kirsten.

In his autobiography "Gazza", co-authored by South Africa-based journalist Neil Manthorp, Kirsten says he was tipped off about the enormity of the scandal during the team's cricket tour of Dubai in 1999.

Kirsten says in the book -- excerpted by Brisbane-based 'Courier Mail' -- that it was a simple conversation about a burger with Cronje that made him realise that "something had gone very wrong" with the game.

It was in 1996-97 that he first came across Cronje's gambling issues.

He reveals how Cronje tried to orchestrate cricket's "perfect fix" in a one-day match against India in Mumbai in 1996-97 by calling the full squad to his room -- without coach Bob Woolmer -- to discuss an offer from a localĀ  bookmaker.

""We have been offered a lot of money to throw a game', he said. I swear you could have heard a pin drop at that moment," Kirsten wrote.

"Nobody moved a muscle. In retrospect I think I had gone into instant shock. Even if I had wanted to speak I would have been unable to. Hansie carried on talking slowly but clearly."

Kirsten listened intently but only because he was fascinated with what Cronje was saying and had no intention to carry out the instructions.

"I knew within a few seconds I could not be involved ...He had been asked to create the perfect fix. He spelt out the details of how the match had to span out, with a spread of scores we needed to be within every five overs.

"I started sweating. It was a bad dream. I kept thinking, 'How do batsmen get out deliberately?' It was ridiculous. After eight overs we needed to be one wicket down - me - and we needed to have under 25 runs on the board."

To Kirsten, the very idea of getting out deliberately sounded absurd.

"He mentioned a couple of times it would be worth 60 or 70 thousand rand [about $15,000] each."

Kirsten also says that he increasingly became uncomfortable with the repeated references to match-fixing that Cronje kept making.

"There was just a bit too much banter about the subject around the team. The captain of six years' standing was talking about match-fixing a lot and joking to his players about being involved. It wasn't really possible to know whether he was being serious or not."

In retrospect, Kirsten is clear that Cronje was handing out invitations all the time "in the form of silly little comments like, 'If you make nought today someone will get very rich.'"

"The power of wealth and the greed for money were his weaknesses, and he was more heavily addicted than any of us knew. Perhaps as a senior player I should have acted but hindsight is a perfect science and life isn't."

Cronje was banned for life after being found guilty of match-fixing and died in a plane crash in June 2002.

Talking about the burger episode, Kirsten said he was joined by his wife Deb the same day that Cronje's wife Bertha flew in from South Africa.

Kirsten made it his business to seek out one of Dubai's finest restaurants to entertain his wife and asked Cronje the next day where he and Bertha had gone.

"He smiled and said they had gone to Burger King. I smiled back and shrugged my shoulders. He continued the conversation by asking why I would want to waste money on an expensive restaurant when you could get perfectly adequate food for a quarter of the price in a cheap restaurant.

"It was a small example but it was the moment I knew something had gone very wrong and it disturbed me. I couldn't get the idea out of my head (that) he would rather eat a burger than have a very pleasant meal. He was very wealthy but far too driven by it. I think our relationship changed a bit that day."

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