Memories of South Africa's flawed icon return to haunt a nation

World Cup Diary

Before this eighth World Cup is done, the canonisation of Hansie Cronje may be complete. The presence of devil's advocates seems merely to be hurrying the process.

Such was Cronje's hallowed reputation in this country that it was always likely his name would hang over the tournament despite his involvement in match-fixing. When he was killed in a plane crash last year that became certain.

The present South African team simply will not forget him. Before the tournament began, Allan Donald and Jonty Rhodes, who both seem willing to ignore the backhanders, dedicated South Africa's progress in the event to Cronje.

Then came the unexpectedly woeful start. Pundits and fans formed a disorderly queue to lambast Cronje's successor, Shaun Pollock. It took the foolhardy innocent, Herschelle Gibbs, to put into words what they were thinking although they dared not speak its name.

Gibbs said in an aside at the launch of his book that the team still missed Cronje and Donald said something similar on an Australian radio station. This was all the fuel that was required to stoke the Hansie fires.

In no time, he was being lamented as a lost genius with nary lip service to the fact that he turned out to be a Christian hypocrite, a natural leader who betrayed his gifts and his game, and took his secrets to the grave.

It prompted the UCBSA to issue an edict banning talk of the flawed icon. But Wessel Johannes Cronje haunts the home team. It remains a worry that South Africa will put their hesitant form behind them, come back to win the Cup only for some fool to dedicate the victory to Cronje.

Bowled over by play

At least, W J C does not rate a mention in an excellent comedy revue being staged in conjunction with the tournament, It's Just Not Cricket. Written by the prolific South African, Paul Slabolepszy, it is endlessly witty about the game and confirms that a sports nut is a sports nut no matter what his breeding.

The piece loosely involves the efforts of three drinking pals to acquire tickets for the World Cup. Eventually foiled, they must watch the games with a few sharpeners at home. But – and who has not been here? – they dare not switch on the television in case they contribute to the loss of their team's wickets.

It brought the full house down in Johannesburg the other night. Thus, there might after all be a difference in fans: it is difficult to envisage a well-observed five-act frippery about the greatest of games going down a storm in Britain.

England v the world

Word is getting around that England are surly, po-faced and rude, which is surely some mistake. Nasser Hussain and his lads are actually a bunch of sweethearts who perform lifesaving operations on paupers in their spare time.

Only kidding, but the chaps are keenly aware of their reputation on the broader public relations front and want to redress the balance. Last Sunday, for instance, at their match against Holland, they entertained local fan, 11-year-old Bradley Smith, as part of a charity appeal. Bradley watched the game from the dressing room and went away with lots of goodies.

Then, on their departure from Port Elizabeth, the entire squad posed for a photo with the attentive hotel catering staff. Smiles all round? Well, it was 7am.

This is the trouble with developing a siege mentality: when you start thinking the world is against you, that is what happens.

Crossed lines

Nick Knight, the England opener, was kept well informed about team injuries and media arrangements all last week. Media manager Andrew Walpole has taken to using the voicemail system which automatically leaves messages on several mobiles at a time. But technology is only as good as the humans operating it. Walpole had confused Knight with a reporter on tour, also called Nick, and only became aware of the confusion when the batsman told him that he had better things to do with his time than attend England press conferences. Nor is he alone.

Forward defensive

And another thing about England. The operations manager, Phil Neale, was unkindly rubbished in one newspaper the other day for using England tours to brush up his sun-tan, which is indeed enviable. England have hit back. In Neale's four years in the job they have not lost one bag. So there.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice