Test cricket captain sacked in betting scandal

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The Independent Online

Cricket's reputation as the sport of fair play was blackened yesterday when South Africa's captain, Hansie Cronje, admitted accepting money from an Indian bookmaker in return for information on the pitch, team and weather.

Considered one of the game's squeaky-clean good guys, he stunned opponents and compatriots alike with his confession. An independent official inquiry has been set up alongside an Indian police investigation. Bob Woolmer, South Africa's former coach, said the disclosure would "devastate cricket in South Africa" and that Cronje's career "would be over".

Speculation over matchfixing and betting scams have dogged cricket over the past decade. With suspicions already aroused, Cronje's decision to risk everything for $10,000 (£6,250) to $15,000 is perplexing. Those who have watched South Africa say that Cronje had become disillusioned over leading a team that some thought was picked not on merit but in order to include players from racial groups other than whites. Poor form and the disappointment of not winning the World Cup last summer are felt to have led to more despondency.

Suspicion and speculation have centred on Cronje since transcripts of a tape were released by Delhi police on Friday. The tape, which contains the alleged conversation between Cronje and a well-known bookie, Sanjiv Chalwa, discusses the terms and conditions before a recent one-day international in Faridabad.

More evidence has apparently been gathered and it is this that is thought to have prompted Cronje to tell Ali Bacher, the chief executive of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. The board in turn sacked him pending an inquiry. In his early-morning confession Cronje denied that the other three players accused by the Indian police, Herschelle Gibbs, Pieter Strydom and Nicky Boje, were involved.

So far the sum of Cronje's crimes is not great. Until more evidence is produced, perhaps the greatest one is deceiving the public into thinking he was a model captain and cricketer.