Wessel Johannes “Hansie” Cronje

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Synopsis:

South African national cricket team captain 

First name: 
Wessel
Last name: 
Cronje
Date of birth: 
25 September 1969
Location of birth: 
Bloemfontein, Free State Province, South Africa
Date of death: 
1 June 2002
Location of death: 
Outeniqua Mountains, George, Western Cape, South Africa

Wessel Johannes "Hansie" Cronje was born in Bloemfontein on 25 September 1969 to Ewie and San-Marie Cronje. He attended Grey College in Bloemfontein, a prestigious private boy’s school. Hansie graduated as the head of his class after completing his matriculation in 1987.

An excellent all-round sportsperson, he represented the Free State (then Orange Free State) at cricket and rugby at schools level. His father Ewie had played for Orange Free State in the 1960s, and Hansie's older brother Frans had also played first-class cricket.

Cronje was selected as a representative for the all schools South African cricket team in both 1986 and 1987. His made his major cricket debut in 1987, when he was selected as an all-rounder to represent Free State.  At the age of 21, he was appointed captain of the team. He was a right-handed batsman and was also a right-arm medium bowler. Whilst playing for the Free State, he attended the local university in Bloemfontein.  Cronje earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of the Free State.

Cronje made his Test Debut for the South African National cricket team against the West Indies at Bridgetown, Barbados in 1991-1992 and his One Day International Debut against Australia at the 1992 World Cup in Sydney. In 1994, aged just 24, he was appointed captain of the team. He became the youngest person promoted to this position in over a century.

Under Cronje's captaincy, South Africa won 27 Tests and lost 11, completing series victories against every team except Australia.  He captained the One Day International (ODI) team to 99 wins out of 138 matches, with one tied match and three no results. He holds the South African record for matches captained and matches won as captain. His 99 wins as captain make him the third most successful captain worldwide in terms of matches won ­­– behind Ricky Ponting and Allan Border – and in terms of percentage of wins (73.70%), behind Ponting and Clive Lloyd.  Between September 1993 and March 2000, he played in 162 consecutive ODIs, a South African record.

In April 2000 Indian police claimed that they had in their possession a recording of a conversation between Hansie Cronje and Sanjay Chawla, a representative of an Indian betting syndicate. Allegations of match fixing were leveled against Hansie and in June 2000 Cronje appeared before Justice EL King at a Commission of Enquiry into cricket match fixing and other related matters.

After his life ban, he became the financial manager for an agricultural machinery company based in Johannesburg.  On 1 June 2002, Cronje's scheduled flight home from Johannesburg to George was grounded.  He hitched a ride as the only passenger aboard a Hawker Siddeley HS 748 turboprop aircraft. Near George airport, the pilots lost visibility and were unable to land, partly due to unusable navigational equipment. While circling, the plane crashed into the Outeniqua Mountains northeast of the airport. Cronje, aged 32, and the two pilots were killed instantly.

In 2004 he was voted the 11th greatest South African despite being banned for life from professional cricket for his role in a match-fixing scandal. Subsequent to his death, suspicions of foul play with regard to his plane crash were put to the test when, in August 2006, the South African High Court began an inquest into the plane crash.  The inquest concluded that "the death of the deceased Wessel Johannes (Hansie) Cronje was brought about by an act or omission prima facie amounting to an offence on the part of pilots".

Cronje's involvement in match-fixing, the suspicion of murder in the cases of both Cronje and the Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer, are depicted in the 2008 novel Raffles and the Match-Fixing Syndicate by Adam Corres.


References:
• Hansie Cronje Biography, Public contribution from JT Communications, Biographies from Siyabakhumbula Awards, 2011.
•  Turbervill, H ( 2010),  Hansie Cronje was a national hero as South Africa's captain until cricket's biggest match-fixing scandal destroyed him, from the Telegraph, 26 May, [online], Available at www.telegraph.co.uk Accessed 17 June 2011]
•  Brenkley S, (2008), Hansie Cronje: A murky tale of race and match-fixing, from the Independent, 2 June, [online], Available at www.independent.co.uk  [Accessed 17 June 2011]
•  Murt, D, (2003), Was Hansie Cronje murdered?from the Guardian, 3 August, [online], Available at www.guardian.co.uk [Accessed 17 June 2011]
•  Anon, Wessel Johannes (Hansie) Cronje [online] Available at www.abcofcricket.com [Accessed 6 June 2011]
•  Anon, Justice E L King, Commission of Inquiry from ESPN, [online] Available at www.espncricinfo.com  [Accessed 6 June 2011]

Last updated : 08-Feb-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 22-Jun-2011