The emergence of a report on the omission of Thami Tsolekile in 2012 counters his claims that Graeme Smith was the architect of his professional demise, writes RYAN VREDE.
Tsolekile played just three Tests for the Proteas and, speaking on Robert Marawa’s show last week, made it explicitly clear that he felt Smith was at the heart of him not playing more.
Tsolekile claimed that there was a purposeful effort to exclude him following Mark Boucher’s career-ending eye injury in 2012, intimating that racism was at the heart of this.
Tsolekile was called up to the squad from an SA A tour following Boucher’s injury, and he emphatically stated that he was told he would replace Boucher. He lamented the selection of AB de Villiers ahead of him, claiming that De Villiers didn’t want the job.
In the interview with Marawa, Tsolekile launched into a scathing attack on Smith, making no secret of the fact he believed the former Proteas skipper curtailed his career.
Smith responded on social media, writing in part: ‘I should emphasise that I was never in charge of selections. I had an opinion as a captain, but the casting vote was with the coach and the selectors. In the case of the 2012 tour to England … there was a whole panel of selectors. Thami was in the squad as reserve keeper to AB de Villiers and this was communicated to him on both the England and Australian tours by Gary Kirsten, which has been previously acknowledged by Thami,’ Smith said.
What of the acknowledgement Smith refers to came in a 2015 interview in Brisbane when Tsolekile was asked for his thoughts on his status as reserve keeper. ‘I’ve had long talks with [coach] Gary Kirsten in England and here in Australia and he made it clear to me where I stand, and I’m very comfortable with that. I see no reason to change things,’ Tsolekile said. This is in stark contrast to the picture he painted with Marawa.
The widespread outcry around Tsolekele’s treatment at the time prompted the Cricket South Africa board to request a full report on the matter from then convenor of selectors, Andrew Hudson. The report helps clarify things, and seems to expose flaws in Tsolekile’s version of events.
Here it is in full:
‘Thami Tsolekile selection issue
‘Initial expectation – He was contracted in April 2012 as reserve keeper to Mark Boucher
‘Mark would play in England and Australia (AB to become No 1)
‘Reserve keeper for those tours would be AB de Villiers
‘Thami (at 32) was identified as Mark’s successor to start [in the next series] against NZ in South Africa
‘No guarantees were given to Thami
‘What happened …
‘Mark Boucher’s unfortunate eye injury resulted in AB taking the gloves
‘This gave us the “X factor” quite by chance and allowed us to play extra batter at No 7
‘This unique advantage contributed to us beating England and Australia [in their back yards] and got us to the No 1 position in Test rankings
‘Thami was in the squad as reserve keeper to AB and this was communicated to him on both in England and Australian tours by Gary Kirsten; this was confirmed by Thami in telecom yesterday.
‘Selection for NZ Test squad was now between AB and Thami as wicketkeeper and the selection committee agreed to continue with AB as Test wicketkeeper
‘This was communicated to Thami (50-minute phone call) and the rationale explained, which he understood but was not happy about (my explanation was around his batting and that it was an area he needed to improve on to challenge AB)
‘Then we had the article from Stuart Hess where Thami expressed his disappointment with selectors and that he was been given mixed messages, however was happy with explanation from Gary.
‘As selectors we have two objectives:
‘1. To extend equal opportunity to every cricketer to represent this country at the highest level
‘2. To pursue excellence in all formats of the game at the highest level
‘CSA has given us “transformation guidelines” to help us achieve our first objective; I am happy to report that in most selections over the past 18 months we have exceeded our guidelines. Successes in the Indian, Coloured, and White communities have been documented, however we are concerned with the number of Black African cricketers at franchise level and the playing opportunities being afforded them.
‘Our pursuit of excellence, while in England last year we were ranked No 1 in the world in 3 formats, to my knowledge this has never been achieved by any country. Remaining No 1 is often determined by structure and balance of selected teams; our current Test Team has incredible balance and this will continue to be a massive contributor the longer term success of this team. We are committed to building a legacy in world cricket similar to the West Indies and Australia in recent times.’