Keith Nicholls
Keith Nicholls

Reopening old wounds

The subject of Hansie Cronje has been back in the news recently after reports detailing the progress of a film based on his life.

This has once again thrust debate over the fallen idol’s actions on and off the field under the spotlight.

Those who take an interest in this largely fall into two categories: those who easily dismissed and forgave his indiscretions, largely based on his popular appeal to the nation (“he’s only human”, “forgive and forget” and so forth) and those who are unwilling to shake the underhanded manner of his manipulations.

Although a believer in forgiveness, I find it hard to forget in this instance.

Leaving aside much of what came out during his testimony, and the reaction to it — too much to dwell on at present — what still rankles for me after all this time is how he abused his position of authority to try to influence new members in the team set-up.

During King commission testimony, Herschelle Gibbs described how Cronje approached him and Henry Williams about under-performing in exchange for money. That none of them eventually did so is beside the point. The fact is, both of them were new to the team and (even Gibbs at that stage) not certain of their places.

What Cronje did was to approach those who were most vulnerable within the team, those who would be more likely to succumb to any manipulation. As far as I’m aware, there was no personal approach to any hard-headed or established members of the team, who would likely have dismissed any such approach and taken appropriate action.

A case of preying on the weak, if you will, and which I find reprehensible, especially in someone who was entrusted with a position of responsibility to guide and nurture those around him, specifically junior members.

And this doesn’t even take into account all the cricket supporters, especially youngsters, who were horribly short-changed by their hero.

Gibbs’s testimony on how Cronje had asked him to deny any of his approaches begs the question of whether Cronje would ever have come clean had he not been exposed.

The debate will likely continue for a long time, especially in light of the new film.