Disgraced Cronje 'always played to win'

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The Independent Online

The disgraced former South Africa captain, Hansie Cronje, broke his silence yesterday to deny he had ever manipulated the results of a match and said he had always played to win.

But Cronje, who was sacked as captain on Tuesday after admitting he accepted money from a bookmaker, hinted that he felt that his South African career was over.

"I am truly proud to have been associated with this side, one and all, and wish [new captain] Shaun [Pollock] and the rest of the team nothing but success in the future," he said in a statement read out in his lawyer's office in Bloemfontein.

"All I will say is that I was not involved in fixing or manipulating the results of cricket matches. I always played to win," Cronje said, reading woodenly from a pre-prepared statement, his lawyer at his side. "I know of no member of any side that I have led who has done anything reprehensible or wrong."

The Indian police have charged Cronje and his team-mates Nicky Boje, Herschelle Gibbs and Pieter Strydom with "cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy' during a one-day series in India last month. All have denied involvement in match-fixing.

On Tuesday Cronje admitted accepting between $10,000 (£6,250) and $15,000 (£9,375) from a bookmaker for information and forecasting during the triangular series against Zimbabwe and England in January.

Ali Bacher, the managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, told a news conference in Cape Town that Cronje had taken the money at a match against Zimbabwe at the Wanderers but had never opened the packet.

Bacher said the money had been counted and totalled just $8,200. The cash has been handed over to Cronje's lawyers.

Bacher denied reports in South African newspapers yesterday that Lance Klusener, had tipped off the Indian police about Cronje's involvement in corruption after he fell out with him. "To put it simply, in Lance's words, it's rubbish," he said.

The England captain, Nasser Hussain, has again vehemently denied any possibility of dubious practice in the shortened Test match at Centurion Park which England won against South Africa earlier this year. "Both at the time and looking back there was nothing untoward going on as far as I was concerned. We played the game tough and so did they," Hussain said.

"There were lots of discussions going on. The night before the final day there was talk of a day-night match. And Hansie Cronje asked would we be interested in a declaration. Initially I said no but then I looked at the pitch and the target was adjusted and I agreed to it. They played it tough and when we shook hands at the end we could see they were gutted they had lost."

Hussain said England players had to adhere to a rigid code if any approaches were made regarding influencing the outcome of matches. "In our dressing room we've had strict guidelines from the board and the ICC, we have it in our little book that if anyone approaches us, we immediately contact the board. That's what happened in the summer when somebody approached Chris Lewis when he wasn't in the side."

Hussain said the issue must not be swept under the carpet. "Definitely not, and I don't think this will be, I think everything has to be looked into, hopefully there's not a lot more to come out but maybe there's a positive to come out of it," he said.

* The pace bowler Andy Caddick was named as England's player of the year, the English Cricket Board announced yesterday. Caddick, who was recalled to the Test side last summer, took 36 wickets in the four-match home series against New Zealand and the five Tests in South Africa.