Sport on TV: Sound of leather jacket on tear-stained pillow
Sunday 08 June 2008
The England cricket team have to be whiter than white these days, by the look of their new outfits. It's a good job, too, because the grey skies that hang over this country mean they are not easy to see. But a cloud has hung over the game ever since South Africa's captain Hansie Cronje picked up the phone at 3am, broke down and confessed to match-fixing.
As an icon of the post-apartheid era who should have been acutely conscious of colour, alas when Cronje looked at the new Rainbow Republic all he saw was the pot of gold at the end of it. And 'Not Cricket: The Bookmaker and The Captain' (BBC4, Monday) stressed that when he approached his team-mates to help him fix a one-day international in India, he went after two of the first non-white players to represent South Africa, Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams.
The tragedy in the story was not so much that cricket was bent, but that a dream had died. The world had eagerly awaited the return of South Africa to the sporting fold. Cronje had singlehandedly ruined it, like someone spiking the punch at the launch party.
The extent of Cronje's betrayal was highlighted by an earlier programme in the BBC's Cricket Legends series, 'The Basil D'Oliveira Conspiracy', which was shown on the same night. It told the epic tale of a supremely talented "Cape Coloured" cricketer who came to England to express himself on a level playing field with the white man, and how that brave journey was compromised when the chiefs of English cricket bowed to South African demands that he should not tour the country of his birth as an England player. The tour was cancelled, and so began 20 years of sporting isolation.
It was Cronje who was supposed to lead them out of the wilderness, but he loved money too much. There is something biblical about the simplicity of this parable – and his death, in a light aircraft that crashed into the side of a mountain.
With South Africa due in this country, thoughts turn to Cronje and the Centurion Test of 2000 when, for the first time ever, Test innings were forfeited to achieve a result from a rain-ruined match. Cronje orchestrated this at the behest of Marlon Aronstam, a bookmaker who "cold-called" him on his mobile phone and rewarded him with a leather jacket. The wonder is in the detail, but the larger picture may indicate that after Centurion, Test cricket was never the same.
These days there are many more results than tame draws, and the game is played more positively. Do we have Cronje to thank for that? And how about the Twenty20 revolution? Aronstam said fixing would continue until "players received the right remuneration". The Indian Premier League may have solved that problem, but the proliferation of this latest form of the game is even more of a bookies' dream.
Latest in Sport
Match of the Day stays: Why the BBC's new Premier League rights deal is better news for some fans than others
Brooklyn Beckham poses in Arsenal training kit following rumours of signing for the Gunners
Manchester United transfer news and rumours: David De Gea could leave for FREE; £38m for Marquinhos; £37m bid for Mats Hummels;
Danny Ings to Liverpool: Anfield club attempt to steal a march on rivals in race to sign Burnley striker
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Pair meet at NBA game and exchange numbers, will the fight be announced during Super Bowl?
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...
£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...
£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...