A snake in the grass out there on the pitch


The devil, they say, is in the detail. When the South African T20 match-fixing scandal first surfaced, no man worthy of influencing a team was beyond suspicion.

There were a lot of awkward cricketing Christmas dinners last year.

On January 14, when Cricket South Africa (CSA) named Gulam Bodi as the intermediary in the whole sordid affair,

The Wanderers press box for the third Test between England and South Africa was awash with rumour, one eye on the action and another on every shifty figure in the background.

As luck would have it, Alviro Petersen was in the media centre, too, due to his commentary commitments to the SABC.

The former Proteas opening batsmen strode in and out of the tea and coffee station with a purpose, seemingly oblivious to the rumour mill swirling around the cappuccino corner.

That day, Petersen was bedecked in a rather eye-catching pair of shoes.

The toes were sharper than the knives laid out for the first-day steak, but it was the pattern on them that was unmistakable. Snake-print. Details, you see.

Petersen’s name inevitably came up during the wave of wonder. Former national player, nearing retirement age, little to lose. He wasn’t the only one to fit the description and some of the other cast members also named in the scandal were also speculated upon that day.

But Petersen was a whistle-blower, it was considered. He was a player respected in the dressing-room, a man who had given younger players a voice on issues such as transformation and opportunity.

Viro? No, surely not Viro.

The problem with speculation is that no man is untarred, no theory too far-fetched.

Thoughts went back to a few peculiar Petersen knocks when he gobbled up dot balls as if he was back in India, making his Test bow for South Africa, instead of the rather hurried matter of a Twenty20 contest.

Surely, a man of his experience knew that you either hit out or got out. But with little actual evidence, Petersen’s name was placed on the “Possibles” list as the matter was chewed over along with the Day 1 sirloin.

The fat of the matter has been meticulously masticated upon by CSA since then and they clearly have found that a few things don’t add up. Petersen being charged is another blow for the game considering his standing, but it is also a terrific shot in the arm for an investigation that clearly knows no bounds.

Since those ides of January, CSA have insisted that they couldn’t name anyone unless they had sufficient evidence to do so.

That Petersen, who claimed to have assisted the investigation, has now been charged says much about the lengths that investigators must have gone to to acquire satisfactory evidence.

It is impossible to understand quite what goes through a man’s mind when he goes down such a despicable path, because they must know deep down that there is every chance that their actions will ultimately lead to career suicide, both on and off the field.

They say you must walk a mile in a man’s shoes to get even a sniff of his circumstances.

By all accounts, Petersen looked to be in a good place with a tidy county deal at Lancashire and a good understanding with the suits at the Wanderers, who even encouraged his promising broadcast career.

Those doors will close now and a cricketing odyssey that spent much of its time shaking up the establishment now seems set to join a growing list of pariahs in cricket.Simply put, there are no shortcuts in the game.

You don’t even need to walk a mile in snake-print shoes to recognise that devilish little detail.

Some details, trivial as they may appear on the surface, stick in the mind like half a chance to a South African hand in Hobart.

Original source: A snake in the grass out there on the pitch