KEPLER Wessels has lifted the lid on the match-fixing which rocked South African in the early 2000s — saying he held suspicions of Hansie Cronje’s nefarious activity dating back to his own playing days in the early 1990s.
Wessels represented Australia in the 1970s and 1980s before returning to play for South Africa after the end of apartheid brought the removal of an ICC ban against playing the Proteas, and provides a fascinating insight into the murky existence of match-fixing during the tail end of his playing days.
Former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje testifies in 2000.
South African cricket copped an enormous amount of grief over the Cronje affair, which exploded in April 2000 when he was charged by Delhi police with fixing ODIs against India.
Between being charged and his tragic death in a plane crash two years later, Cronje admitted to taking roughly $100,000 in bribes from gamblers since 1996 before being handed a life ban from cricket.
But the depth and history of Cronje’s shady behaviour is far more complex, and Wessels explains that he had suspicions about match-fixing before his retirement in 1994.
During Wessels’ final tour, a 1994 triangular series involving Australia in Pakistan, his concerns were heightened.
“Hansie made a few comments during the last couple of games that led me to believe that things weren’t 100 per cent right,” Wessels tells Cricket Legends.
“We picked up a wicket and we were in the huddle and Pakistan were 4-120 or something.
“And (Cronje) came into the huddle and said ‘don’t worry about this. We’re going to win this one because they’re not trying to win it’.
“I’m thinking ‘where’s that coming from?’”
South African cricketers Hansie Cronje (l) with Kepler Wessels in better times.
Wessels retired after that tour, but Cronje’s suspicious comments stuck with him.
And when he found himself watching another ODI against Pakistan a few months later, again Wessels’ concerns were raised.
Chasing the Proteas’ modest target of 215, Pakistan appeared to be well in control at 2-101 before a stunning collapse of 8-77 — which included three run-outs — led to a 37-run loss.
“Two or three run outs straight to Jonty Rhodes… I looked at that (collapse) and thought ‘nup, this can’t be right’,” Wessels concluded.
“And I remembered those sort of conversations (with Cronje) and started to think all is not well.”
Wessels also opens up about the time he was snubbed by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.
A star in the Test team at the time, Wessels was invited to a cocktail party at Kirribilli House.
When introduced to Fraser by his teammates, Wessels offered his hand — but was rebuffed, and the prime minister turned his back.
“It wasn’t pleasant,” Wessels recalls.
“But I suppose at the time, South Africa being such a political hotbed of controversy I guess you could sort of understand it.
“I didn’t really want to dwell on it because my whole career seemed to be involved with the political theme which I didn’t really want to dwell on. So I put it behind me but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t (upset me) at the time.”
Wessels talks in depth about these topics and more from his controversial cricket journey, from the dramas of playing Test cricket for two nations to his dramatic walkout of Australian cricket in the mid-1980s.
Story by Australian Herald Sun
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