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
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

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most