On this day, April 11, 2000: Hansie Cronje sacked by South Africa over match-fixing claims

Cricket world rocked to its foundations after captain is relieved of duties on day of shame

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It was a move that rocked the sporting world to its core: South Africa had sacked captain Hansie Cronje over allegations of match-fixing.

Cronje was the golden boy of South African cricket but found himself dragged into a story that would result in his career ending in disgrace.

On April 7, Delhi police had charged Cronje with fixing the one-day matches played against India in March, which India won 3-2.

United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) chief Ali Bacher dismissed the claims, highlighting Cronje's "unquestionable integrity and honesty", while the "stunned" player said the allegations were "completely without substance".

Two days later, Cronje reiterated his disbelief at the claims at a press conference in Durban.

He said: "I want to make 100 per cent clear that I deny ever receiving any sum of money during the one-day series in India.

"I want to also make it absolutely clear that I have never spoken to any member of the team about throwing a game."

Still Cronje retained the support from within the game. Former South African coach Bob Woolmer said: "These allegations are absolute garbage. He is not the type of person to get involved in anything like this.''

But the allegations were not going away and the pressure – and evidence – was beginning to mount.

Then, on April 11, the bombshell was dropped: Cronje had been sacked and Shaun Pollock would take over as captain for the upcoming one-day series against Australia.

Bacher said Cronje had admitted receiving money during a limited-overs series with Zimbabwe and England in January – not the India v South Africa series.

Cronje had allegedly accepted between $10,000 and $15,000 from a local South African and an Indian bookmaker based in London.

Asked at the news conference what details Cronje had been asked for by the bookmaker, Bacher said: "He denies match-fixing. Our information is that there was a detailed providing of information and forecasting – not match-fixing. He was asked about match-fixing but he denies throwing the match."

But confusion reigned when, soon after Bacher made his statements, Cronje would claim that he had "never received any financial rewards".

In his version, relayed through South Africa sports minister Ngconde Balfour, Cronje said: "While I was in India I was again contacted. I mentioned names of players but in fact I never spoke to a single player about throwing a match. I never received any financial rewards.

"I wish to emphasise that the allegations of match-fixing by myself are devoid of all truth.''

The waters were certainly murky but the day's headlines had stunned many in the game.

Woolmer, who worked with Cronje in the five years he was Proteas coach, said: "It will be the end of Hansie's career and it would be a real kick in the teeth for South African cricket."

James Whittaker, Cronje's former captain at English county side Leicestershire, was still convinced of his old teammate's innocence.

"There are very few who have the amount of character he has. I am just so surprised by this news," said Whittaker.

"If more people brought the honesty, integrity and commitment to the game that he does to cricket, it would be a much better game."

By June, though, Cronje had admitted taking large sums of money for giving information to bookmakers and asking his teammates to play badly on five separate occasions between 1996 and 2000.

But he told the King Commission into match-fixing allegations South Africa had never "thrown" or "fixed" a match, under his captaincy.

"Words cannot begin to describe the shame, humiliation and pain I feel, in the knowledge that I have afflicted this on others," he said. "To my wife, family, and teammates, in particular, I apologise.

"The greatest honour which can be bestowed upon any cricketer is to lead his country's national side. I have failed in my moral and professional duties."

Four months later, Cronje was banned for life from all cricket-related activities.

He ended his Test career after 68 matches with 3,714 runs at an average of 36.41, scoring six centuries and 23 half-centuries, also taking 43 wickets at 29.95 with the ball.

From 188 ODIs, he managed 5,565 runs at 38.64, hitting two centuries and 39 half-centuries, taking 114 wickets at 34.78 along the way.

Two years later, the story would take another tragic turn when, aged just 32, Cronje was killed in a plane crash in the country's Western Cape province.

Former South Africa president Nelson Mandela said after the news emerged: "Here was a young man courageously and with dignity rebuilding his life after the setback he suffered a while ago.

"The manner in which he was doing that, rebuilding his life and public career, promised to make him once more a role model of how one deals with adversity."

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