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June 17, 2000

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Clean up, move on

Sujata Prakash

There was a surreal quality to the testimony of Hansie Cronje, almost as if in between the mild seismic shocks his words stirred up, one expected him to pause any minute and readjust his pads. Sadly, the only thing he will be readjusting now are the papers he carries around containing names, dates and other relevant information on matches presumed to be fixed.

As we all know by now, his testimony has not changed that word 'presumed' to 'known.' For some reason, Hansie Cronje balked at admitting that the money which swelled the family piggy bank was given for services rendered. Understandable in a way, I suppose, this attempt to make it appear that the leather jacket and cash then becomes just a gift from a friend, and not the piece of silver taken for selling his soul. No true Christian wants to be lumped with the likes of Judas, and Cronje, true Christian that he is, is merely doing his best to distance himself from such a comparison.

There can be another reason of course, and that is to save the younger players who were led astray by him. Perhaps its a combination of both. Whatever it is, the truth is already known around the world, and only the very na´ve would believe that Hansie was merely 'spinning along' the bookies to counter their pressure, and that his mind was made up that he would not do anything dishonourable. Some of the time, perhaps, but not all the time. This is his way of finding some saving grace, and we can only hope that he realizes that what the world badly wants from him now is the hardest but most necessary thing of all -- the whole uncensored truth.

The most poignant moment of all was at the end, when a plea was made by him to save younger players from corruption by having tighter controls and briefing them of the pitfalls of accepting that first tempting invitation to taste the forbidden fruit. That such an act could lead to a complete downfall was evident in his lifeless voice. The moral education of players worldwide has started from today. Lesson number one being that all the money in the world is not enough to have the joy, pride and self esteem flattened out of you, that no amount of money can compensate for you being rendered a shell of the man you were. Once again, as on the field many a time, Hansie is leading by example.

Nowhere is this lesson more badly needed than in India. We must be grateful that the players implicated in the scandal are ready to retire and clear the field for men who have the choice to say 'no'. This is the perfect time for young cricketers to make a case study of the trial and know what to avoid, namely:

Disloyalty: The player who is disloyal to his country and collegues is marked as the dust of the earth, and ultimately can only bring failure and contempt on his head.

Intentional dishonesty: There is no hope for the person who is dishonest by choice. Sooner or later his deeds will catch up with him, and he will pay by loss of reputation and perhaps even liberty.

An uncontrollable desire for 'something for nothing': There is no such thing as a free ride anymore. Gamblers belong on race tracks, not on pitches. With tighter controls around the corner, the 'something' can change to 'nothing' even before the umpire can raise his finger.

Nothing clears away debris like a thunderstorm, and sunshine inevitably follows. There is plenty of reason to believe that our young, enthusiastic and educated players will grasp the message and couple moral tenacity with national pride to start rising again from the ashes. And Kumaran has made a start by declaring that the next time he takes on the Pakistanis he'll give it back to them. Brave words indeed, and hopefully coming from a brave man who will, when the time comes, put his money where his mouth is. We won't have to wait for very long to find out.

Sujata Prakash

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