• Philander v Abbott: the big questions

    A political storm surrounding South Africa’s team selections at the World Cup has erupted around Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat. We ask five questions that haven’t been answered.

    Has history, to an extent, repeated itself?
    Charl Langeveldt withdrew from South Africa’s squad for 2008’s tour of India, after being included at the expense of Andre Nel. ‘I always fought for my place and I don’t want to be included because of the colour of my skin. I’m very upset about it. As players, we usually have a good idea whether we will be selected. You only have to compare Andre’s performances with mine to realise that he should be part of the team, as I haven’t played a Test for two years,’ Langeveldt said at the time. The incident, more or less, marked the beginning of the end of both players’ careers. The situation certainly isn’t as dire for Philander and Abbott, but will probably place strain on their working relationship.

    Why was the final choice Philander ahead of Abbott?
    Lorgat’s alleged ultimatum graciously afforded Domingo and De Villiers the opportunity to replace Rilee Rossouw with Farhaan Behardien, rather than sideline Abbott and pick Philander. ‘Vernon was fully fit. He had been through all the rehabilitation and fitness tests. In New Zealand, we always felt that the wicket could offer the seamers a little bit and when there is something in the wickets, Vernon is one of the best exponents of that and that’s why we went with that,’ explained Domingo during the semi-final post-mortem. Philander’s strained, hamstrung performance, though, begged to differ.

    Was picking Behardien instead of Rossouw considered?
    Benching Rossouw would probably have caused more of a public furore than that witnessed in the aftermath of Abbott’s exclusion, but circumstances were extenuating – and Domingo and De Villiers were effectively backed into a corner. The insistence that Philander adds to the batting resources is a moot point. Given the unusual selection parameters, aspiring all-rounder Behardien ahead of specialist batsman Rossouw might have been the better bet. Surprising, too, that Wayne Parnell’s name didn’t feature in Lorgat’s alleged text message to Domingo.

    Could Cricket South Africa’s timing have been better?
    Less than a week after Wednesday’s disappointing semi-final exit, CSA announced the amendments to the official fast-tracking of black African talent at domestic level. Come the 2015-16 season, franchises will be required to field at least six players of colour and at least three black African players in all competitions. The statutes within provincial cricket, too, will eventually have an obvious effect – negative or positive, depending on your historical disposition. ‘From an operational perspective, it has been heartening to see the manner in which everybody has embraced the need for change,’ said Lorgat, whose motives – selfish or selfless – will consistently be questioned by a South African public still smarting from more World Cup heartache.

    Where to from here?
    De Villiers, Domingo, Lorgat, sports minister Fikile Mbalula and a host of other political and sports personalities have been questioned on the subject. Whether ‘these are acts of desperate colonial apartheid apologists’, as Mbalula will have you believe, or genuine home truths, substantive remarks remain far and few between. The impending arrival of the eighth edition of the Indian Premier League – another tournament synonymous with meddlesome South African cricket officials, circa 2009 – will allow those directly and inadvertently facing pressure for the errors of others some breathing space for the time being.