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South Africa admit Tsolekile u-turn

Firdose Moonda

December 21, 2012

Comments: 40 | Text size: A | A

South Africa's Thami Tsolekile heads to practice, The Oval, London, July 17, 2012
Thami Tsolekile has been left wondering where he stands in South African cricket © Getty Images
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Andrew Hudson, South Africa's convenor of selectors, has admitted his panel told Thami Tsolekile he would play the Test series against New Zealand before going back on their decision. Their stance had to be reversed when AB de Villiers decided he would like to continue in his new role as keeper-batsman.

Hudson's acknowledgement comes after Tsolekile revealed he was "disappointed," at being left out of the squad and confused about the reasons for his exclusion. Tsolekile spoke to various media outlets in the last few days and expressed his concern over the administrators not following through with their promises.

"I wasn't expecting to play in England because I knew that I went there as a substitute when Mark Boucher was injured and I had no expectations at all. When I packed my bags for Australia, I also knew I was going to be the back-up keeper," Tsolekile told ESPNcricinfo. "But before that tour, the selectors told me I would get a chance against New Zealand, especially if things go well. When I spoke to them again, I was getting different messages. There's nothing I can do now. I'll just keeping doing what I am doing for the Lions."

More often than not a player voicing discontent over non-selection in the public domain would cause a fracas, but this time it has only resulted in sympathy. Cricket South Africa's acting chief executive Jacques Faul confirmed the organisation would "sit down and have a chat about what happened because we have to interrogate the process," while Hudson said he "feels for Thami."

Hudson was the bearer of Tsolekile's bad news but emphasised he was willing to be "transparent" about what had happened. "When Boucher was forced to retire in England we need a replacement and even though AB was reluctant to do the job, we asked to fill in for the next two tours," he said. "We did tell Thami he would get his chance against New Zealand.

"After the tour to Australia, AB came back to us and said wants to continue keeping wicket because he is enjoying it. That was not the case six months ago. AB's interest in doing the job meant the situation was different."

De Villiers was able to alter his earlier position because the selectors wanted him as the first choice wicketkeeper anyway, according to Hudson. "When he told us he wanted to play as the wicketkeeper that was fantastic news for us because we can now play an extra batter or extra bowler at No.7. It is not a case of him dictating to us. If he changes his mind at any stage, we will respect that."

Although de Villiers has a history of chronic back problems, which worsened after the England tour, Hudson said the administrators are happy for him to continue keeping wicket even if it means he is rested from limited-overs matches, such as the forthcoming three-match Twenty20 series against New Zealand. De Villiers is South Africa's ODI and Twenty20 captain but Hudson said he will be rotated so he is able to focus on Test cricket.

In the longest format, South Africa have stuck to a seven-batsmen strategy since England with the additional player proving worthy. Both JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis carried underperforming players at No.6.

Jacques Rudolph and Dean Elgar - who bagged a pair on debut in Perth - have averaged 21.50 in the position and Hudson said although the selectors take note of that they will continue with the tactic "especially when we have JP back." Duminy has just completed the first month of six in his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in Brisbane.

As a result of the policy to play seven batsmen, Hudson said: "Thami is now in competition with AB for his place in the squad." While Tsolekile claimed that was never explained to him as bluntly as that, he admitted that Hudson told him he needs to put in better performances with the bat.

Hudson has spoken to Tsolekile's franchise coach Geoff Toyana and asked for Tsolekile to bat higher up the order to give him the opportunity to score big hundreds. Tsokeile usually slots in at No. 7 but was moved up a place in the on-going first-class match against Warriors. It was his first competitive outing in seven weeks and he scored an unbeaten 88. In the same round of fixtures, Rudolph managed 9 for Titans and Elgar 43 for Knights.

Apart from the cricketing argument, there is also concern that Tsolekile's exclusion represents an anti-transformation stance especially since South Africa's Test team has not included a black African in almost two years, since Lonwabo Tsotsobe in January 2011. Still, Hudson insisted he and his panel "are committed to transformation."

CSA, though, are concerned about representation. The next board meeting is on January 9 and Faul said there is a possibility that legislation will be passed to ensure development is better attended to. "We already have directives at semi-professional level to ensure black African players come through we may have to legislate it at franchise level as well," he said.

Hudson said even if those instructions extend to national level, he will happy to accept them. "If the board want to propose further guidelines, I will embrace them and see them through," Hudson said. South Africa does not have an official quota system in place at the moment. It was previously mandatory to play four players of colour in every team which included black Africans, mixed-race and those of Indian descent.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by yoogi on (December 24, 2012, 4:45 GMT)

Its good that SA has a problem of plenty. But then they should give AB some break from keeping so that he concentrates on being a better batsman than to ask a keeper to Horne his batting skills.

Posted by Robster1 on (December 23, 2012, 3:13 GMT)

Short term Vilas could be Boucher's successor, but in the long term - or maybe now - it has to be de Kock. Tsolekile is both too old to commence a test career and his batting is simply not good enough to be a test No 7. There's a whiff of quotas too over his selection. Time though for the gloves to be removed from AB.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 18:50 GMT)

I am not a fan of Thami, but I don't like the way the selectors are treating him. They should have decided before the time if they need a "specialist" keeper or a batsman / keeper and either play him or not select him at all. This drama was totally unncessary. I personally think Quinton de Kock should be the Protea keeper in all forms of the game. Have the selectors not noticed his FC batting AND keeping average??? He's in the Adam Gilchrist mold and might conceivably become a great of the game if he gets his chance.

Posted by Poopal on (December 22, 2012, 15:40 GMT)

What a shame......if the selectors can't keep their word. If AB is the heir apparent to captain the test side, looks like it is about putting his own interests ahead of the team - not good. Give Thami the break and it is a really good chance to "test" him against a weak NZ side to get his hand in. Next thing this will turn political as it often does in SA and Hudson, Kirsten and crew will only have themselves to blame!!! Anyway I think Thami would make a far better keeper than AB who should be targeting to succeed Kallis at No. 4.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 10:39 GMT)

I hope Thami is not a victim of apartheid which still haunting in South African Cricket!

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 9:58 GMT)

I do feel for Thami but everyone seems to be missing an important point- JP will be back in a few months and there is no way that Faf can be dropped if he continues as he started. Blooding Elgar is the right move because the selectors can let him know that Duminy is still their 1st choice no.6 and at least Elgar will gain experience for the future.

Posted by aslamPK on (December 22, 2012, 9:52 GMT)

I think it is better for SA criciket to play Thami in Home tests (NZ and Pak or even more). This will reduce the workload of AB. Also in case of some injury to AB and readily prepared WK will be available to SA. On one hand AB is out ot T20 for rest, one other hand he want to keep the wickets in all form. I think he is also in dabger for his place in Test. But I strongly believe he will improve his batting without Keeping gloves.

Posted by mahjut on (December 22, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

I don't understand why a board is held to ransom by some players. So AB doesn't want to play - wish granted, oh, you do now - wish granted!!? As pointed out, Thami does look a far better bat than he used to and one should keep their promises... I still feel AB gives the team better balance but this leaves a horrible taste

Posted by Dale_Pain on (December 22, 2012, 8:59 GMT)

Tsolekile has a FC average of 46.13 for the last 3 seasons and looks like a different batsman these days. He is a much better glovesman than AB or de Kock. Seeing as AB's back will give way at some point, now is the perfect time to give Thami match practice against a poor NZ team.. I am sure he will bat better then JR and Faf would move up to 6. With Robbie P and Philander at 8 and 9, it would be one of the deepest batting orders in recent times (a few years back we had Harris at 8!)

Posted by Rajeshj on (December 22, 2012, 8:40 GMT)

I have seen him a few times in champions league and he did appear to be a better keeper and a good batsman... better than Dane Vilas or Jacques Rudolph (I don't remember a match where he actually played a good innings.. but still with the team for so long).. One could not help but think that something fishy is around with the selection panel.. If AB is going to be rigid in having the keeping gloves, I don't think he would have a longer playing career... you earn what you sow... if you kill other's careers, then yours mind end soon... hope he/Kirston/Hudson learns it soon.. DeKock still needs a bit of maturity.. in yesterday's match, he played some good shots, but I can tell you, he would be easily hunted by other stronger teams (even India)... he needs a bit more time and Tsolekile should be the rightful choice now...

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