Hansie takes guard in new film
Johannesburg - Aussie spin king Shane Warne is smashed for six by South Africa cricket captain Hansie Cronje as the crowd roars its approval at a rising star who would later shame the nation and the game.
Five years after his death in a plane crash, a new biopic on Cronje that has begun filming will likely reignite the debate over the man who was once revered as a national hero but later became synonymous with the murky world of match-fixing.
The match against Australia at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg, with Cronje look-alike Francois Rautenbach playing the role of the late Proteas skipper, will form the opening scene of the movie, before it all went wrong.
"This is where Hansie scored his 100 here at Wanderers in 1994, it was still under the old South African flag," explains his older brother Frans Cronje, who owns the production company that is making the movie.
"It was the first ever one day international where Shane Warne didn't take a wicket and Hansie hit them to pieces here, and that was really kind of the establishment of Hansie as a national hero of South Africa."
Years later, the verdict is more equivocal, with some seeing him as a tragic hero, and others as the man who soiled the image of the gentleman's game.
At the time of his death in June 2002, the Natal Witness wrote that it brought "the finality of a Greek tragedy to the saga of a flawed hero ... who fell from grace because of a fatal love of money."
Frans Cronje says the aim of the movie is not to vindicate his brother, but to tell the story "as it was".
"When Hansie was still alive I told him we should do something like this and he always said 'you can't do it until the story is finished', and when he died I knew the story is ready to be told," he said.
Three years ago, he started doing research for the film, which included interviews with more than 40 people who were close to Hansie.
"It's an inner journey, it's not primarily a cricket story although there is some nice cricket in it, but the cricket merely forms the background to the story," said Frans Cronje of the movie which has a R55m budget.
His brother "represented the new South African hero, he could speak to black and white, old and young, rich and poor... and make everyone feel special."
Only the second South African captain in the post-apartheid era, Cronje's exposure in a match-fixing scandal left the cricket world aghast.
The King Commission, set up to probe the involvement of Cronje and other South African cricketers in match-fixing during a five game one-day series in India, ended in him being banned from the game for life.
After Cronje died, former South Africa coach Bob Woolmer - whose death during the World Cup this year sparked a new round of speculation about match-fixing mafia - called Hansie "a real leader of men".
"They would have walked off Table Mountain for him. He was a man destined for greatness," Woolmer said.
But as South African batting great Barry Richards said, "he will obviously be remembered for all the wrong reasons."
While questions remain as to whether all the truth had emerged, with reports of secret bank accounts, numerous properties and funds secreted away, the older Cronje is adamant these accusations are mere speculation.
"If people want to speculate, they can speculate. As far as the movie goes we don't try and dig up anymore, we don't try and point fingers at anybody."
Rautenbach spent a year preparing for the role, being coached in cricket and spending time with the family.
"Every now and then he looks so much like Hansie. It's the mannerisms more than the look I suppose," says Frans, adding it was difficult filming some of the scenes.
Rautenbach said that some of the scenes were emotionally draining.
"The King Commission was really tough. Hansie was exceptionally tired, there was a lot of emotions and he goes to a backroom and weeps in his father's arms," he said.
Rautenbach has run the gamut of emotions Hansie experienced in admitting his guilt, and trying to "find a purpose again while at the same time deal with being ostracised."
"At the end of the day we are not making a movie to vindicate him because he did wrong. We are trying to tell a story of redemption. He had more than his fair share of punishment."
American actress Sarah Thompson, who has had roles in the television series 7th Heaven and Angel, plays the role of Cronje's wife Bertha.
The 10-week shoot has taken the cast across South Africa and they are scheduled to shoot scenes in London and Mumbai.
The movie is scheduled for release in September next year.