Hansie Cronje, an international South-African cricketer was a hero turned villain in the cricket fraternity. It was 2014 when he was ranked as the top 11 greatest South African even after getting banned from cricket for life due to involvement in match-fixing.
This disgraced former captain of South Africa was killed in a plane crash at the age of 32 in the Western Cape on June 1, 2002.
Hansie Cronje made his ODI debut against Australia at Sydney in World Cup 1992 but didn’t get the chance to bat as South Africa won the match easily. Hansie’s Test debut came against West Indies at Bridgetown in 1992 which was South Africa’s first Test appearance after readmission in cricket. He scored 7 runs in the match.
The cricketer was a match-winner and won the Player-of-the-Match Award 19 times in international cricket. Out of 19 awards, 17 came in ODIs while 2 came in Tests. While his only Man-of-the Series Award came in Standard Bank International Tri-series involving India and Zimbabwe in 1997.
The cricketer’s leadership was inspirational and those who have played under him rate his leadership qualities very highly. His pre-match talks were motivational. He led South Africa in 53 tests and under him, the team won 27 and lost 11 matches. Hansie led South Africa to series victories against every opponent except for Australia. In ODIs as well he was phenomenal as skipper and captained his side in 138 matches out of which South Africa won 99 matches while one had ended in a tie.
“Hansie was a great leader,” teammate Gary Kirsten said in his tribute after Cronje’s tragic early death.
“He was an inspiration to me when I first came into the national team and he gave me confidence. It was impossible not to respect him.”
Hansie Cronje’s first fifty came against India in his 18th ODI appearance when he scored his first Test century against India at Port Elizabeth. His innings proved to be of paramount importance as South Africa secured its first Test win since readmission. In Cape Town ODI against India, Hansie Cronje secured figures of 5/32 and became the second South African player to claim a fifer in ODI cricket.
It was the Match-fixing scandal that turned him into a Villain from a Hero. It also caused a premature end to his international career. In 2000, the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) imposed a life ban on him for his involvement in match-fixing.
Delhi Police while investigating the case, came across had a tape that uncovered the match-fixing scandal to the world.
Later, Cronje confessed his involvement in the scandal to an inquiry commission in South Africa and was subsequently banned from the cricket life.
“In a moment of stupidity and weakness I allowed Satan and the world to dictate terms to me,” Cronje said in a confession to a church leader, couching it in Biblical terms.
“The moment I took my eyes off Jesus, my whole world turned dark.”
The widespread scandal also resulted in a ban for former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin and ex-Pakistan skipper Salim Malik from playing all forms of cricket in 2000.