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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions