Woolmer backs Cronje ahead of King commission

STEVEN MANN, Cape Town | Monday 3.15pm.

FORMER Proteas coach Bob Woolmer says he believes fired national cricket captain Hansie Cronje has never been involved in match fixing, and that if this proved to be the case he should become eligible to play for his country again.

Woolmer, who now coaches the English county side Warwickshire, flew into Cape Town on Monday to offer his assistance to the King Commission of inquiry, which is probing corruption in South African cricket, but has not been called upon to testify.

Cronje has admitted to taking $8200 from a bookmaker for providing match information during a triangular series with England and Zimbabwe.

“If that’s all he has done, then what’s the story?” Woolmer said. “I honestly believe Hansie when he says he did not fix one match.”

He told the Cape Town press club he was aware of the team being offered $250000 to throw a benefit match in India in 1996, but said the bribe had been declined.

Woolmer appealed to the South African public to put their faith in Cronje, saying at least he had admitted to doing wrong. “In some ways he has done cricket a huge favour.”

Woolmer also said paceman Alan Donald was recovering from injury and it was hoped he would be fit to bowl by June 20.

Former teammates of Cronje’s have also voiced their suspicions about the Proteas skipper, with even players like Donald, who maintained that Cronje was the victim of a set-up, indicating that there may be more to the saga than they were willing to believe.

The commission which is headed by retired judge Edwin King will begin its hearings despite chances that it will be unable to get copies of recorded conversations between Cronje and a bookie.

The hearings will last until the end of June.

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