A verbal fan dance

HANSIE Cronje need not despair. The way is open for him to return to a profitable business, one at which he appears to be more proficient than cricket. After following the days of testimony and cross-examination, I am convinced that he has a great future as a striptease artist.

Consider the way we have been tantalised over the months, right from the time the much-maligned Indian police announced that they had evidence of Cronje's forays into organising results before a match was played. And still, every person I have talked to, across a fairly wide spectrum of nationalities, is pretty sure that we haven't seen it all yet. There are more feathers left and Cronje continues to tantalise.

A lot of the testimony appears to have been scripted by PR men and lawyers. I mean you can't but laugh when you hear a man admitting that he took money, discussed possible outcomes and then claims that he never actually fixed a match. What is this whole investigation about then? Picking daisies out of season?

There is a lot of uncovered ground here. The phone conversations about a match in which Cronje and his bookie pal apparently agreed that Gibbs would score less than 20 (he got out for 19) and Boje would bat up the order and get out cheaply (he got 14) have still not been explained satisfactorily. Cronje's lawyers have tried to explain things by claiming their client is under strain and that he may not be able to remember details. Fiddlesticks! The man is suddenly under strain, the same man who meticulously planned how to get even his daily expense paid by others, the same man who played cynical tricks with coloured players when he was fully aware that they were under more pressure than most.. come on, give us a break. All that skullduggery did not put a strain on him. He also captained a cricket team, performed well with the bat and as a leader and so he is a man of some resources (and I don't mean only bookmakers' money).

It strikes me as funny how hardened cases like Cronje suddenly become very nervous and uncertain when they are under pressure. The excuses they trot out don't wash at all. The man who took much more strain during his active days as a cricketer is now complaining about being cross-questioned. This kind of ruse is common with a certain class of white collar crook. Feigning innocence is another ruse -- I remember the wide eyes of Mark Waugh and Shane Warne when they were caught with their hands in the bookermakers pockets. Suddenly, all these men of the world become like little boys. We must be grateful that they do not pee in their pants in public.

Let's not forget Kapil "Paaji" Dev and Mohammed Azharuddin. Paaji goes on TV and cries. Ever heard of crocodile tears, the stuff which comes oozing out just before a croc is about to have his next meal? Azhar tells reporters he does not know of anything called match-fixing. I would refer the man to William Shakespeare and a certain comment about roses... Maybe Azhar calls it by a trade name. I don't know. Or maybe he is suffering a massive dose of amnesia. More striptease artists in the making.

Sit back for a moment and consider. Much has been made of the South African inquiry. But, in actual terms, what do we know now that we did not know earlier? Cronje had confessed. We have the gory details of his underhand dealings. Gibbs was already under suspicion as was Williams. So what's new?

In India, there has been ample media coverage and investigation. In fact, there have been stories right from 1997. People make the most horrendous allegations and get away with them. How much more do we know? Again, nothing. When are we going to know something? In my lifetime? Or yours, dear reader? Or never?

In Australia, we have a man called a special investigator, an employee of the cricket board. And he is supposed to be investigating what has happened in the recent past. All people have got a clean bill so far. Then why have a special investigator when there is nothing to investigate?

Pakistan's report was reportedly watered down but at least one man has been thrown out for good. Others have been put on warning. It isn't the perfect report but again a lot of this was public knowledge. There is something that ties this whole mess together and inquiries should get down to that. The criminal nexus that is the glue of the operation. Then we will be on the way to eradication.

The ICC meeting in London has definitely indulged in some talk about fixing. But it is unlikely to be about bringing the guilty to book. It has focused more on restoring some respectability to cricket by other means -- in computing terms, bells and whistles will be added and all the bugs will remain. Lancing a boil is the solution when one gets a fever due to the presence of the boil; treating the fever won't help. The ICC will never deal with causes; there will be too many big names who will take a hit. No, they have indulged in the usual cosmetic exercise of trying to put gloss over the cow dung. And after that, it has been business as usual.