Hansie Cronje. One man, who turned into a villain in the blink of an eye, losing reputation built over years of painstaking effort and endeavours. The saga of lapses in Cronje’s professional integrity that was brought to light nearly 13-years ago was quite recently refreshed, thanks to the chargesheet filed by the Indian police authorities. And although the charges were dropped by the Indian judiciary, the bitter memories that were evoked, once again cast the late former South African captain in a greyish light.
When one thinks about the good that Cronje brought to the cricketing fold, one can’t help think about the bad that he wrought upon its realm, shaking the sport to its very foundations. On one hand there’s the enormity of his contribution to South African cricket, his prolificacy as the captain taking South Africa to greater and farther heights and a thorough professional whose professionalism never wavered even in the most difficult of times. Juxtaposed with these elements about the cricketer also lies the veritable truth – his involvement with the unsavoury characters plaguing the cricketing domain and his greed that caused him to lose his place and standing not just in South Africa, but also internationally.
His death may be given as a reason to dismiss the charges laid on him presently, but at that time, it only brought forth divided opinions about Cronje and his cricketing contributions. Acknowledgements about his achievements were given with grimness even as hearts and minds wavered about taking a stance on his countenance. The poster-boy of all that was good in cricket had turned overnight into all that was evil and impure and even death couldn’t restore his goodness.
Indecisiveness still lingers about Cronje’s legacy as a professional. But this indecisiveness is prevalent only amongst those who were old enough to understand the ramifications of Cronje’s involvement in the match-fixing scandals. For the younger generation of the sport’s followers, Hansie Cronje remains merely a name with a certain unfavourable past associated to it. The new-gen realm of cricket’s followers are more concerned about the present-day mires surrounding international cricket rather than worrying about a past that has no bearing whatsoever contemporarily. To rehash the past before such a generation is then truly unnecessary. The South African doesn’t belong in the present; his death brought a premature end to his bearing on the future. If he had been alive, it would have been an altogether different issue. But then again, dwelling on what if’s isn’t exactly the way to go on about it. In a world where courtesy demands bygones to be let bygones, Hansie Cronje is one man who deserves this courtesy. His death may not have obliterated his misconduct, but it indeed provided an eerily fitting closure to a sportsman fallen from grace.