'Hansie Cronje erred grievously'
Controversy never seems to leave you…
If you live in South Africa, you cannot avoid it. But, at the end of the day, you must do what you believe is right.
What convinced you to initiate the rebel tours?
There were three factors that precipitated the rebel tours. One was that in the ’70s there was a delegation from the white cricketing body that went to England to meet their counterparts about the return to international cricket and were later discouraged.
Secondly, I had a viewpoint and maintained that in my lifetime, there would always be apartheid. Not that I wanted it, but because of the policies of the nation. I was wrong. Thirdly, I was a professional cricket administrator and had to do the impossible and keep the game alive.
And later when the match fixing scandal shook the world, how did it affect you?
It shattered the country. But during the King Commission, our strategy was to emphasise that there cannot be any one cricketer. It’s got to be beyond our borders. So, our strategy was to internationalise this problem. I think we were correct, but I came under a lot of fire in the subcontinent for what I said during the King Commission. I was under oath and had to convey the information that I had acquired from reliable people.
You were so close to Hansie Cronje. Was he made a scapegoat in the whole affair.
He erred grievously. I said it then and he acknowledged it. But I must admit that I felt very sorry for him, because I knew him so well. And saw the pain and suffering that he and his family endured. I remember, I was in London during the King Commission, and at the conclusion of his testimony he just fell down in a heap and it broke my heart.
At the end of the ’90s he wasn’t so calm on or off the field as he used to be and at that time we thought it was related to having served South African cricket. But in retrospect, I think all this was playing on his mind. It must have worried him intensely.
Do you believe there were others who should have also been exposed?
As I said, our strategy was, it can’t only be Hansie. We aimed to internationalise this problem and I think we did that and proved to be right.
At first, you were furious with the Indian police. What do you think of their enthusiasm now?
The day Hansie phoned me to say he hadn’t been honest with me, I said publicly that we need to apologise.
It is believed you haven’t revealed much about the Hansie Cronje saga in your autobiography. Any particular reason?
I don’t think so. There are 35 pages of it in my book.
Finally, why did your friend (Little) Arnold Perkins nickname you Ali?
(Laughs) I don’t know! I think he got it from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. But it stuck from the age of eight!