Post by Dr. Jai Mahar » Mon, 10 Apr 2000 04:00:00


By Trevor Chesterfield

Centurion, South Africa, April 8 - As serious doubts
start to emerge about Indian police claims of match-
fixing levelled at South Africa's captain Hansie Cronje
on the recent tour, relations between the two governments
are on the verge of being soured.

Both countries have had a close, harmonious relationship
since the overthrow of the Apartheid regime in the early
1990s but this is being tarnished by what is seen by a
number of South Africa's top cricket administrators and
players as a bungled effort to frame Cronje and three
other members of the side. Now the South African
Government have stepped in, voicing their concern over
the allegations while there is also anger at official
level over the lack of protocol used in the so-called
exposure of the match-fixing claims. There is a feeling
in South Africa that the police have badly bungled the
allegations. An official press release issued by the
United Cricket Board said the South African government is
to contact the Indian government to convey the country's
concerns about the match-fixing allegations levelled
against four South African cricketers (Cronje, Nicky
Boje, Pieter Strydom and Herschelle Gibbs).

Aziz Pahad, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs,
yesterday assured UCBSA managing director Dr Ali Bacher
that the Government would seek an explanation for reports
that South African players' telephones were tapped while
they were on an official cricket tour in India.

The Government is also to ask for an explanation
regarding the process by which the allegations against
the four players were made public.

No Indian official has yet contacted the UCB, the players
concerned or South African officials in India or in South
Africa. Bronwyn Wilkinson, a UCB spokesperson said the
''Board is dismayed that the integrity of South African
cricket and its players has been questioned.''

Bacher, managing director of the UCB said, ''We remain
adamant that our players have never been party to match-
fixing.'' Cronje has declined to comment further on the
issue while Kepler Wessels, whose place Cronje filled in
late 1994, has come out in strong support of the players.
In his weekly column, Wessels said it was time the fight
against corruption started ''and in this country'' he
commented, ''what is needed is an independent,
transparent and conclusive inquiry into the match-fixing
allegations with South Africa, India and the
International Cricket Council and each conducting their
own investigations,'' Wessels said.

''... And this country (South Africa) is where the
fightback against corruption in sport should start...
Knowing the players the way I do I cannot believe that
they would be involved in something like this...,''
Wessels wrote.

Questions are being asked about the veracity of the
Indian police's probe and why they only released such
hard evidence on Friday, a week after Cronje's side left
Sharjah to return home after being involved in a series
against Pakistan and India and almost three weeks after
the side had left India.

There are also suspicions about the manner in which the
investigation was conducted and the tapping of mobile
phones and the room telephones of the players. Both, it
is being claimed, show a state of paranoia by the Indian
police or those involved in what is also seen as a smear
campaign. It is understood that while they played the
tapes of the ''alleged conversations'' and issued written
transcripts of what was said, the style of delivery and
grammar of the language used was not that of Cronje's.

In normal conversation, Cronje comes across quite
strongly but not as brusquely as made out in the tapes
and usage of 'yeah' instead of the normal 'ja' is one of
the areas in question while other bits of conversation do
not tie in with his voice presentation. The name
Williams, most likely Henry Williams, who was injured in
the first game of the limited-overs slogs, was not
involved in this particular tie, alleged to be the third
of the series and played at Faridabad and which South
Africa went on to win.

Another reason why there is a feeling of a ''frame-up''
or that it was a ''hoax in bad taste'' is that it is
believed the Indian police responsible for the so-called
probe would not release the tapes for private listening.
All of which smacks of serious indifference to those who
are being charged.

There is a strong feeling that had the story broken on
April 1, it would have been likened to a very poor April
Fool's joke. Indian police have argued they were acting
on a tip-off and used highly sophisticated equipment to
tape the conversations. If this is the case, why have
they waited so long to lay charges and arrest one
businessman, who is said to be involved.

Former South African Test players Craig Matthews and
Fanie de Villiers came to the aid the players involved
with Matthews saying that players such as Williams and
Strydom were far too straight to get involved in anything
which had the slightest whiff of a shady deal.

(The author is a veteran South African cricket journalist
and also International correspondent for CricInfo)

Sunday, April 9, 2000
Click on the Indian Express link at News Plus
Om Shanti

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