Former South African Cricketer Jonty Rhodes has said that it is the tragic airplane crash that robbed his teammate and dear friend, Hansie Cronje, a final chance to redeem himself in the eyes of cricket lovers around the world.
Hansie Cronje infamously admitted having played a substantial part in spot-fixing moments of cricket matches during his playing days. He was not only one of South Africa's best Captains but also one of their best players. Cronje died in a plane crash in the year 2002.
There must be mixed feelings when one hears his name, but for Rhodes, Cronje's death still leaves a pain in his heart.
“His death was very, very sad. My wife and I were close to Hansie and his wife (Bertha). When we arrived at the Cronje house, they had just recovered his body from the crash site. It was horrible. For many people, when they lose a friend, life goes on after a period of mourning. But for us, it was impossible to just move on,” said Rhodes.
Worried about her mental state at the time, Rhodes and his wife went on to give all the support that they can to Bertha, Cronje's wife.
Rhodes still remember it, and said, “My wife and I tried to make sure that Bertha was never alone for the first three-four months after Hansie’s demise. We would stay in her house, or we would call her over to our place. When I toured England, we flew her across to the U.K. to stay with us. It was the first holiday she took without Hansie. Bertha has since gotten married again, and she has two kids. My wife and I meet them quite often,”
Rhodes, who is now 49-year-old, still has memories of his first meeting with Hansie.
“When I was young, I suffered from epilepsy, which meant that I was the only kid to wear a helmet on the cricket field. Hansie’s father (Ewie) believed that I was a good player, so he told Hansie to ‘go and watch the kid with a white helmet’. After the match, Hansie didn't speak to me, he just shook my hand. Hansie always joked that it was easy to spot me because of the helmet,” he said.
“Hansie was earmarked to be the South Africa skipper when he was just 18." and added, "He was the South Africa Schools captain, and I was the vice-captain. Way back in 1987, the Convener of the Selection Committee told me that one day, if and when South Africa re-enters international cricket, Hansie will be the captain of the national team. Hansie understood man-management and people-skills way before these aspects became the norm.”
Rhodes actually believes that it was Cronje’s greed of making quick and easy money that led to his downfall.
He said, “It was never really about taking money to lose a match or under-performing. Hansie initially took easy money for doing nothing, and as time went on, they (bookies) wanted him to force a particular result. He felt that he had to deliver on their demands, because he had taken their easy money earlier,” and added, “You can’t just forget and forgive the bad things he did easily. But at the same time, if you hold it against him for the rest of your life, the only person suffering is you."
"Hansie has moved on; he’s gone to a different place. Obviously, the bad things he did was very hard for all of us to accept. But he was the only cricketer to admit his wrongs; everyone else just denied it.”
(Inputs from SPORTSTAR Live)