Bacher offers the olive branch to Cronje

Possible role for disgraced ex-captain in South Africa 2003, an event in the sights of a young Englishman
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The Independent Online

Player security will be guaranteed at the next World Cup in South Africa, which will be comfortably the most lucrative of all time. Dr Ali Bacher, the veteran administrator who is organising the event, has given assurances that every possible measure will be taken to prevent spectator invasions.

"We have put in place a high-profile security directorate, and when I last spoke to them my comments were very simple," said Bacher. "We've got 54 matches, and from the moment the players and umpires go on to the field till they leave it, we don't want one spectator on. I don't want to go into the strategy, whether it's dogs or barriers, but it's got to be in place and it's got to happen."

The security endeavours will be complemented by a team of tournament ambassadors. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that these may include the disgraced former captain of South Africa, Hansie Cronje, who was sacked and apparently excommunicated from the cricketing family after admitting taking bribes.

Bacher said: "I'm sure there is a role for him some time. I don't know when. He erred grievously and he knows it, but he and his family must have gone through hell and you've got to feel for them."

Bacher clearly saw the need to raise the security issue immediately after watching the pitch incursions which marred three matches in this summer's one-day tournament in England. He has been in the country to deliver a progress report on the 2003 World Cup to the International Cricket Council and was prompted to allay any worries.

"Dogs patrol the outfield at Cape Town after disturbances in the early Nineties," he said. "We were concerned after just getting back into international sport and being a new democracy it would make us look like a police state, but ministers who visited weren't worried," said Bacher.

"Security officers are with the team all the time at the hotels, following them in a bus, at the ground, which the players probably aren't aware of, and we've never had a security problem with a team member. It is the right of players and umpires. The field must be spectator-free."

Details have yet to be agreed, but it is clear Bacher will support temporary draconian measures if necessary to ensure the tournament's smooth running. The United Cricket Board of South Africa are expecting to make easily more than the £13m profit of the last World Cup, in England in 1999. Prize money of $5m (£3.57m) will be at stake.

Fica, the international players' association, are being consulted about how it should be distributed, but the winners will receive between £1.5m and £2m, the biggest prize ever played for in the sport. "It's 2003 and that's what we estimate the players had to be worth," said Bacher.

For the first time it will put cricketers on the same ladder, if several dozen rungs below, individual sportsmen like mediocre tennis players and golfers. A World Cup winner in South Africa might have a personal prize of around £120,000. Bacher refused to say as much, but it should be sufficient to deter the illegal bookmakers, or at least to persuade the players that it is not worth their while.

Unfortunately, the system in 2003 still leaves room for dead matches, which must be played and are most vulnerable to jiggery-pokery. The top three teams in each group of seven will go through to a Super Six stage from which will emerge the semi-finalists. Stage wins are worth two points and Super Six wins worth three.

Bacher said the tournament was crucial to South Africa after the most painful year in its cricketing history in 2000 following the Cronje revelations. "South Africans are resilient and we have come out of it extraordinarily well." He hopes there will be 50,000 worldwide visitors to the event, including the poverty-stricken black population by distributing 15,000 free tickets. All teams will play a warm-up match in a disadvantaged area.

"The honeymoon period in our country of Nelson Mandela is over. South Africa needs a global event to get the people together again. The government are aware of this."

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