Proteas dominate world cricket despite match-fixing scandal
By Robson Sharuko
HARARE – In the gloom of a match-fixing scandal that continues to claim scalps, and the shock triggered by the decision by some of its best players to turn their backs on their motherland to play county cricket in England, South African cricket had a reason to cheer its spirits this week when the Proteas ended the season as the number one-ranked team in the world.
It has been a tough period for the game in South Africa with the match-fixing cancer, which first emerged when the Proteas’ former skipper Hansie Cronje shocked the world by admitting he had taken large sums of money from illegal bookmakers to influence the outcome of matches, still devouring the soul of cricket in the Rainbow Nation.
Cronje, who died in a plane crash in 2002, was banned for life for his part in that match-fixing scandal which also sucked in two other South African international cricketers Herschelle Gibbs and Nocky Boje.
Last week, former South Africa bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe was suspended after he was charged in the latest match-fixing scandal, related to corruption in the country’s domestic Twenty20 competition in 2015, with the 33-year-old becoming the latest to be sucked into this never-ending saga that has claimed the scalps of a dozen others.
Tsotsobe, who played five Tests, 61 ODIs and 23 Twenty20 internationals for the Proteas, had not played international cricket for more than a year but, in the wake of his suspension, he can’t now play, coach or be involved in the game under the jurisdiction of Cricket South Africa and the International Cricket Council.
He is being charged with contriving to fix or otherwise improperly influence, or being party to a scheme in which attempts would be made to fix or otherwise improperly influence, a match or matches in the 2015 Ram Slam T20 Challenge Series and seeking to accept, accepting or agreeing to accept a bribe or reward to fix or contrive to fix or influence improperly a match or matches in the 2015 Ram Slam Twenty20 Challenge Series.
He also faces further charges of failing to disclose the receipt of a gift or payment that he knew or ought to have known was given to him to procure a breach of the code or that was made in circumstances that could bring him or the sport of cricket into disrepute and failing to disclose to the Designated Anti-Corruption Official (without unnecessary delay) full details of any approaches or invitations to engage in corrupt conduct under the code.
The 2015 Ram Slam Twenty20 Challenge Series match-fixing scandal has already claimed the scalps of batsman Alviro Petersen who was banned for two years in December last year after he admitted to have attempted to cover up the corruption that was being done by others while former Proteas wicket-keeper Tham Tsolekile was banned for 12 years in August last year for his part in the scandal.
Jean Symes received a seven-year ban, Pumelela Matshikwe and Ethy Mbhalati were banned for 10 years, after being found guilty by the King Commission for receiving money from Gulam Bodi, a former South African spinner who was the central figure in the scandal, who was banned for 20 years from the game after admitting to charges of attempting to fix the matches.
Amid all this, fast bowler Kyle Abbott and batsman Rilee Rossouw also announced they were turning their backs on international cricket and leaving the Proteas to sign contracts to play in the English County Championship in a move that was slammed by South African national team coach Russell Domingo.
Abbot played 11 Tests for the Proteas while Rossouw, a top order batsman, featured 51 times for his country in limited overs matches before they called time on their international careers to play county cricket in England.
“We got an email off his iPhone yesterday telling us he has signed Kolpak. He spelt my name wrong for starters – he put one ‘l’ instead of two. So that’s where we are. I’m very disappointed in him,’’ Domingo told the South African media.
“He toured Australia as the back-up Test batsman, he was the next batsman in. He’s played in most of the one dayers and a lot of T20s. He’s a guy we backed after five noughts (early in his international career).
“We said this is a guy who can play the closest level to AB de Villiers in the one day teams. We invested massively in him and we’re very disappointed in his decision.”
“They haven’t been sincere with us. I’ve been playing these guys in our team without knowing they are leaving.”
Cricket South Africa also said they were disappointed that, after investing so much into the development of the players, the duo had decided to turn their backs on their country.
But, there was a silver lining to the dark cloud that has hovered over South African cricket over the past few months with the Proteas retaining their number one ODI ranking in the world, following the May 1 annual update, after a very good season for Domingo’s men.
‘’The table now reflects all matches from 1 May 2014, with matches played from 1 May 2016 carrying 100 per cent weighting,” the ICC said in a statement.
‘’Number one ranked South Africa has gained four points following the annual update and is now on 123 points, while world champion and second-ranked Australia has stayed on 118 points.
‘’India, which will defend the ICC Champions Trophy title in the UK in June, has swapped places with ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 finalist New Zealand. Both the sides have gained points following the update but India’s five-point gain against New Zealand’s increase of three means India is now ranked third on 117 points and New Zealand is fourth on 115 points.
‘’England, which will host the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, has retained its fifth ranking but has moved up one point to 109.
‘’There is no change to 10th-ranked Afghanistan’s tally of 52 points, but 11th-rabked Zimbabwe has dropped two points and is now on 46 points. Ireland has gained one point and is on 43 points.’’
South Africa beat New Zealand in an ODI series in New Zealand, beat Sri Lanka at home, beat Ireland in a one-off match, won an ODI series in Australia and did well at a Tri-Nations tournament in the West Indies where, among other results, the Proteas beat Australia and the hosts.