I am starting this blog to be able to write to my heart's content. I dont want to advertise this blog but I would want people to chance on it and give their comments. This is the first of many contradictions that will make up this blog

Location: India

Monday, November 05, 2007

Truth? You must be joking!!

Hansie is a film currently under production - about the life and times of Hansie Cronje.It brought back memories of that turbulent time in cricket when Outlook magazine carried out an expose on match fixing and cricket fans worldwide were scarred for life.

As a subtext, I remember the glee with which I received the news of Hansie Cronje's confession to the King's commission probing match fixing. I felt vindicated as an Indian (almost as if I was personally a part of the Mumbai police investigation team that implicated Cronje). Of course, it had more to do with the the universal derision that greeted the first claims by the Mumbai police that Cronje was involved in murky, underhand dealings. The derision had all the typical qualities that raises the hackles of a citizen of a former colony.

The voices defending Cronje were predominantly white.
The questions were mostly about the competence of a police team from India.
And the attitude reflected was: 'This is typical subcontinent nonsense'

Of course it didn't help that Cronje was revered and worshiped as one of the great South African heroes. Someone who was credited with single-handedly taking South Africa from the lowest rung in cricket almost to the very top. He had great charisma as a leader and was universally admired. So, the fall was all the more spectacular. Patriotic pride swelled as a villain had been unearthed and that too by an Indian police team (Especially because you yourself shared many of the sentiments openly expressed by the South Africans: Cronje in match fixing? A scandal actually unearthed by the Indian police?).

So we heaved a collective sigh of relief that the Mumbai police was actually right. Hansie Cronje was banned for life and lost his life in a plane accident within a couple of years of his revelation.
But the controversy was not about Hansie alone. In a crime notorious for the difficulty in proving it, other names were tossed about. Marquee names like Azharuddin, Jadeja, Kapil Dev, Salim Malik were accused of playing slowly, throwing their wickets, dropping catches and ultimately losing matches for their country...

In an atmosphere vitiated with rumours of every hue, it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between what was true and what wasn't; whether to believe in the tears so copiously shed on national television by Kapil Dev protesting his innocence or to go with Manoj Prabhakar's allegation that kapil had offered him money to throw a match.
No one confessed to doing anything wrong.

Only Hansie did. In front of the King's commission, Cronje confessed his complete involvement in the match fixing saga. What prompted him to confess publicly and unequivocally (After having denied any role in the scandal when the allegations first surfaced) leaving him no path to redemption is open to conjecture.

Maybe the evidence against him was irrefutable and he had no other choice but to confess.
Maybe he had got advice that to come clean was his best hope.
Maybe he was actually remorseful for all that he did.
Or maybe, he believed that his countrymen would forgive him for his transgressions.

Hansie was banned for life and became a pariah in the cricket world. This was followed by a multitude of bans. Commissions and inquiries were set up in other countries. The CBI in India banned Azharuddin for life; Ajay Jadeja, Ajay Sharma and Manoj Prabhakar for 5 years each. The Justice Qayyum commission in Pakistan banned Salim Malik and Ata-Ur-Rahman for life. Others like Gibbs, Williams, Odumbe were implicated and punished. All in the face of 'conclusive' evidence against them.But no one admitted to any wrong.There were no public confessions and if there were any private ones, they were never made public.

The closest it came to public admission was when Mark Waugh and Shane Warne admitted to having provided 'pitch information' and 'team composition' details to a book maker (A fact that was known to the Australian board for almost 4 years but which they chose to keep under wraps). Both of them believed that they had been 'naive and stupid'. It was deemed to be a transgression mild enough to be settled with a fine. No other inquiry was conducted to probe their role.

So, with all the revelations of match fixing, bookie involvement, matches lost, players under-performing and viewers being taken for a ride for so long, Hansie was the only one stupid enough to confess. Everyone else bided their time.

Today Azharuddin inaugrates fitness centers and is honoured with other former captains by the BCCI for their services to Indian cricket; Jadeja spouts his expert views on myraid TV channels and his sound bytes are sought on his views of Rahul Dravid's omission from the Indian team; Shane Warne is idolised and feted for having been arguably the best cricketer of the 20th century.

And Cronje is dead.

In a pantomine played out for long involving only villains with unbridled greed, no moral scruples and absolutely no shame, Cronje's grave is a testament to our times.
Of a man stupid enough to confess.

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