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South Africa admit Tsolekile u-turn

Firdose Moonda

December 21, 2012

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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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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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...

Posted by Strongarm on (December 22, 2012, 7:19 GMT)

There will always be players who are unlucky not to be selected for a particular team and often timing here is an issue - thinkof Nic Pothas and Mark Boucher. Probably also Morne van Wyk and Tami fit in here. However, I would think that Tami is lucky to be in the frame if you consider that he is already 32, has the poorest 1st class record of all mentioned above and we have yet to mention Dane Vilas. Check his credentials 27 yr old, ave 46 h/s 203 with 8 tons already. If any keeper needs to feel hard done by, it is him. I think it is likely he will become another forgotten keeper as deCock takes over the T20 and odi keeping roles until AB is ready to hand over the test keeping roles to him. As for Tami, unlucky, to be born in the wrong era, and even then, not to even have been the 2nd best keeper in that period.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 6:48 GMT)

There are four salient facts to take into account here: 1. AB's going to put an unbearable strain on his lower back by continuing to keep in Tests; indeed, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that he might suffer a career-ending injury; & for what, exactly? de Kock's a bona fide batsman. If SA are intent on continuing to play seven specialist batsmen, he could slot in seamlessly at No. 7 if Faf were to be moved up to Six; 2. AB clearly isn't a Test-class keeper: he looked extremely untidy against both England & Australia. SA won both those series not because of AB's keeping, but *despite* it: 3. The responsibilities of keeping also clearly affected his batting: sure, he finally made a hundred at Perth, but that was the first time he'd passed 50 in six Tests as keeper. 4. The sooner de Kock's in, the better: hard to argue with a FC average of 63. Sure, he's only 20, but Boucher was 21 when he made his debut. SA have missed a trick by not blooding him in two easy Tests against NZ.

Posted by xylo on (December 22, 2012, 4:23 GMT)

Well.. ABdV wants to continue keeping... good on him...but that would mean his careers is going to be really short. that would mean SA will have to look for a batsman after they eventually give the gloves to this kid.

Posted by simonviller on (December 22, 2012, 2:03 GMT)

Tactical move by AB for reasons better known to AB himself . Is it that AB is now thinking about his own security on the team ,where his own play would be guarunteed in the absence of good performances with the bat ,or is it something more sinister on his part ? Whatever the reasons are ,Tsolekile's time will come, for everything happens for a reason .

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 1:54 GMT)

I accept the AB decision, but Tsolikile should have played yesterday.

Posted by Burbon on (December 22, 2012, 1:22 GMT)

Well Thami had that coming , when Makhaya stood up for him, he shot him down , now I guess he's seeing the light. It's not the fact that his average is 30 , its the fact that he was assured by the selectors that he would play against NZ and now the U Turn. Well I would be surprised if he plays for SA again, so much for promises.

Posted by moongoat on (December 21, 2012, 23:59 GMT)

@Sa_Scot In Reality Faf has had a great start, that if continues will keep jp out. jp isnt coming back for 6 months or so but when he does the squad is strengthened. JK will hopefully continue for some time but is not eternal , and if common sense prevails SA will bring through DeKock to gradually take the gloves. Plus i believe De Villiers is a winner and wants to win , thus the best team calls itself . very fanciful but misplaced are your ideas

Posted by hannibal_king on (December 21, 2012, 22:16 GMT)

dont know why ppl think hes not a good batsman, hes exactly how a keeper batman hould be like bail the team out from a tough situation and tht the kind of rep he has in dometic cricket, better him than rudolph or elgar, and hes a far supoerior keeper to de villier

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 20:48 GMT)

The problem is QAB is world class and his fit, and he is a natural allrounder in all formats of live, and he is the ebst South Africa have, Thami is good but as it is make those hundreds and prove in South Africa A sides you can hold it together , Vilas, and Kuhn is in teh same boat they are good enought to play teher but dont pitch up and perform, you just have to prove more and then hope that you can prove your self on International level

Posted by Harmony111 on (December 21, 2012, 20:20 GMT)

The only thing I find bad here is that CSA went back on what they had told Tsolekile. But why should ABD be blamed here for making up his mind one way or the other? Sometimes it takes a lot of time and a moment of epiphany for someone to make up one's mind. ABD's moment of epiphany came after CSA had talked to Tsolekile but its not as if it was set in stone by that time, was it? No one is blaming anyone here but its more a case of events happening in a certain sequence than anything else. Let's not blame anyone here whether ABD or Hudson or Tsolekile.

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

Do not nail de Kock on his age. Boucher was 21 when he started and the rest is history. He did well in the T20 tonight and is a real find for the future.

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 19:43 GMT)

Not a major issue De Villiers was asked if he would take the gloves as an stop gap - he did SA won both series ! De Villiers enjoyed the wicket keeper batter role and said he wanted to continue what is wrong with that? The team won thats the most important thing not about individual feelings - yes they could maybe have been more honest when they made the decision to grant AB his wish - so apologise and move on

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 19:28 GMT)

This is just another example of a pathetic and incompetent CSA Board and management team. Too much politic-ing and self-benefitting, and not enough focus on cricket. It's so sad that the cricketers themselves become the headlines, rather than the administrators.No wonder a team made up of ex-South Africans now playing abroad could just about be rated the second best international team in world cricket.

Posted by MK_SA on (December 21, 2012, 18:49 GMT)

@ChevChelios: You seem to be missing the point entirely. As mentioned in the article, AB has always been the selectors' first choice keeper and the only reason why Tsolekile was told he would play against NZ was because AB was reluctant to do the job. AB has since changed his mind. So, there is no issue of a player "dictating" to the selectors here! He has always been their first choice, so the fact that he is now willing to do the job beyond the 2 series they agreed upon will obviously mean they will continue using him. I don't blame the selectors. They have a job to do and that is to ensure the best 11 plays. In any case, how are we to know Thami was "promised" he will play against NZ? Perhaps Hudson only expressed likelihood that he will play (since AB was initially unwilling to continue more than 2 series)...

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 21, 2012, 17:25 GMT)

Best wicket keeper should play. Period. De villers is not a wicket keeper.

Posted by SA_Scot on (December 21, 2012, 17:04 GMT)

OH well, not completely surprising. Thami comes across well I think. Obviously disappointed, but he appears to be handling this well, with considered speech.

At the end of the day, wheras it may not be considered especially *nice* to have done this to Thami, the South African team are stronger (Certainly imo) with AB as keeper Batsman than they are with Thami as our number 7. AB make very few obvious errors behind the stumps (Nor does Thami), and is no doubt a far far superior bat.

Added to all this, I reckon AB is keener to be keeper now because he has his great mate FAF in the team....and AB playing as a keeper would solidify Faf's place in the team even when JP comes back..... but this can only really happen if AB takes that keeper position. If Thami played, it would be AB at 5 and Duminy at 6.......

Even if Faf had to rival JP for number 6, it would still mean there was a strong chance Faf wouldnt get in. Pretty sure that has a huge part to play in AB changing his mind

Posted by StaalBurgher on (December 21, 2012, 16:27 GMT)

@ ChevChelios - Sometimes a debutant has a bad start. Elgar's pair has little meaning. If he struggles over the next few matches then sure you can consider trying someone else. He averages 45 in FC. He is 25 years old. How does that exactly relate to de Kock? @Noggin-ball - Transformation can go fly. That is the number one worst reason to pick a player. de Kock is hands down a better option than Thami. Thami got a small chance as backup to AB. It is now over. He should be grateful for his moment.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 21, 2012, 16:23 GMT)

@ChevChelios: You say "A backup keeper should always be there if AB gets injured" - I agree. And that's what Thami still is. His argument is that he thought he would play at keeper instead of ABDV, not as a backup. I don't think many people are arguing for De Kock in test cricket yet, he needs more experience and T20 is perfect to give him a bit of exposure. I find it hard to feel sorry for Tsolekile when he has a CSA contract and goes on overseas tours despite having vastly inferior stats to players like Kuhn who aren't even considered.

Posted by ChevChelios on (December 21, 2012, 15:36 GMT)

A good number of people are bringing into discussion the age factor and batting average for Tsolekile. The point here is not that he is not a good batsman or a too old to take the job. The point is betrayal and dishonesty on part of CSA. Hudson hasn't been honest about a lot of things in this scenario. What does he mean that AB came to them and said he is happy to continue? So now the players have started to dictate the terms with the board just because they are more talented and have the right to put someone aside. I am a huge fan of AB but bitterly disappointed by this bizarre and totally unnecessary fiasco. If Tsolekile wasn't required, why keep him hooked. It would have been much better if he wasn't given a hope in the first place. A backup keeper should always be there if AB gets injured. Many people are mentioning de Kock, but is it really viable that a 20 year old with a handful of matches thrust into Test arena and made to look like another 'Elgar'.

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 15:32 GMT)

You know, I'm torn on this one. On one hand, Thami's FC average isn't special and, with younger players - ones for the long term - starting to come through, you can't help but feel Thami is a victim of nothing other than being born at the wrong time. Who knows what would have happened once Dave Richardson quit playing if Boucher hadn't been around. Thami? Steve Palframan? Pothas?

On the other hand, the selectors could have played him against what it likely to be a fairly weak NZ team. If he failed then they could say 'yeah, told you so'. If he did well, they could say 'he was only a stop-gap until AB felt like taking the gloves again'. I kinda feel bad for him.

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 15:24 GMT)

Team balance is more important than one individual fringe player. Thami joins a list of hundreds of unlucky players in the history of test cricket, but he should be professional enough to understand that there is not a place for him in the side now. That may, possibly will, change, over the next few years and he needs to be patient and put in the time and hard yards, make some big scores and force the selectors to consider him. Whining about it to the press is not the right way, in my opinion, to get attention.

If they put in a quota system just for him, that will make him feel even worse. I don't think anybody should make the team for non-cricket reasons, and I'm sure Thami and others won't want to have that unfortunate "quota-player" tag. Years ago, players like Charl Langeveldt walked away from S.A. cricket for this reason.

Posted by C.A-SA1987 on (December 21, 2012, 15:16 GMT)

Previous comments appear to be missing the point. This is not about whether Thami is good enough. Personally, I would love to see young De Kock in the team. That would really round our team off nicely.

However, when selectors are saying one thing, and doing another, it stinks of hypocrisy.

Once again, I'm not saying Thami should play... But with that being said, the selectors should never have created an expectation in his mind.

Judging from Thami's comments, he seems level-headed with realistic expectations. So no matter how i feel ABOUT him as a cricketer, I feel FOR him as a human whose hopes were raised, only to be dashed.

Rather unsavoury, with a bad taste being left in the mouth.

Posted by yorkshire-86 on (December 21, 2012, 15:07 GMT)

Tried and failed. Tsole Kile is the Bopara of SA

Posted by Noggin-ball on (December 21, 2012, 14:26 GMT)

Very bad form, Andrew and co. In the light of some serious criticisms coming your way regarding transformation, justified or otherwise, this episode has considerably weakened your argument, and opens wide the door for unwanted interference in team selection, which does nobody any good, except the politicians. CSA can simply not afford an ounce more controversy right now, and I'm surprised that you, especially, have become embroiled in this entirely uneccessary unpleasantry. Recent batting form by current middle-order emcumbents clearly indicates there is room for a specialist wickie, especially if he can bat, as can Thami. And who knows? Perhaps a cap or two might just kick-start a string of goods knocks, of which he is infinitely capable. A bad back and ongoing fatigue, added to the responsibility of (albeit for the one-dayers) captaincy, specialist batsman and (specialist) 'keeper, might suggest that AB rather be spoken to, and not merely 'invited' to offer an opinion, surely.

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 14:20 GMT)

batting avg of 30? Not good enough. Better to blood the very gifted De Kock, who has a sterling career ahead of him.

Posted by neiljturner on (December 21, 2012, 14:16 GMT)

While I do feel for Thami, I've got to say that a man with a career first-class batting average of 29 can hardly be considered to have shown obvious international quality, and a 32-year-old is not exactly a long-term option, either.

Boucher averaged 33 in first class cricket, and even with him there was a feeling that he was only keeping his place in the side because he carried so much international experience - his contributions with the bat were not quite good enough in a world that had seen the likes of Andy Flower and Adam Gilchrist. When there's the option to use someone like de Villiers (test average 49) in the short term, and bring along a talented youngster (Quinton de Kock, first class average 63, admittedly over only 23 innings), leaving Tsolekile out makes perfect sense.

He's just unlucky that he wasn't born 5 years earlier; he might have been picked ahead of Boucher and then his whole career would have been different.

Posted by THE_MIZ on (December 21, 2012, 14:01 GMT)

There we go, the selectors admit that they weren't honest to Thami. Everyone talks about how he needs to improve with the bat but the point is that he has! Look at his stats for the last three seasons and he scored another 88 not out just yesterday. The best glovesman in S.A as well yet he is not given a chance. This was the perfect series to try him out so as to prepare us if AB gets injured. Still persisting with out of form Rudolph and "Mr pair-on-debut" Elgar. "Thami is now in competition with AB for his place in the squad." What a joke! Show me a single domestic player that can outcompete AB! Really feel for Thami, awarded a national contract and not even selected for the bench.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 21, 2012, 14:01 GMT)

Thami is the backup to De Villiers, who could get injured at any time, and will go on overseas tours. If I were him I would be grateful for that, given his career FC average of 29 and the fact that he actually retired from cricket a couple of years ago. If De Villiers strains his back Thami would be straight into the team ahead of players like Kuhn with far better averages. Doesn't seem like he's being unfairly treated to me.

Posted by slicknick on (December 21, 2012, 13:57 GMT)

Very disappointing for the man. Going to be some questions asked as to why he wasnt at least given another chance. Transformation is not happening in South African cricket.

Posted by Clan_McLachlan on (December 21, 2012, 13:46 GMT)

Gotta feel for Thami. He's done himself few favours in his career since being a kid prodigy, but this time he's been shafted though no fault of his own by poor communication and team balance.

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