Cricket South Africa has confirmed that the selection of the national team includes a guideline on transformation which requires the consideration of at least four players of colour in the starting XI. That was the major outcome of an internal review conduced by three CSA board members to look into the selection of Vernon Philander for the World Cup semi-final, following allegations that the bowler was added to the team to meet an unofficial quota.
Philander had carried a hamstring injury at various stages of the World Cup which forced him out of three group stage matches as well as the quarter-final, but he played against New Zealand in place of Kyle Abbott, a decision which several sources claimed was at the behest of CSA's board. Some media reports pinned the instruction directly from CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat.
CSA, however, denied this even when an insider in the camp, motivator Mike Horn, said politics had "a role to play" in the semi-final selection.
Horn's allegation was made on Thursday, and on Friday CSA's president appointed three members of the board, whose names were not made public, to conduct a review of the semi-final selection. On Saturday, CSA issued a press release quoting a letter sent to them by Horn, in which he said his quotes were taken out of context and another, confirming the findings of their review in which they were "satisfied with the performances of the selection panel, the coach and the chief executive."
CSA admitted that Lorgat was consulted on "matters on transformation," which follows the "usual and well-established procedures of the selection panel" and that he had "impressed upon the convener and coach the need to properly consider the best XI bearing in mind the transformation guidelines."
Both Andrew Hudson and Russell Domingo told the review panel they and the other selectors were "aware and follow the protocols and guidelines established for the selectors," and that those protocols include "transformation guidelines which require the panel to consider, on merit, the selection of at least four players of colour in the starting XI."
They both said the "usual rigorous selection debates had taken place and that they had signed off the final XI with their full support and confidence" after establishing that Philander had undergone and passed a fitness test. They were satisfied with including him in the team because "Philander was a regular and first choice player, particularly in New Zealand conditions."
CSA's release also said the overarching criteria for selecting the team was "merit" but explained that there is a nod to transformation. "Hudson and Domingo explained their understanding of the guidelines and confirmed that there were many occasions when more than four players of colour were selected. On the rare occasion that three players were selected, this was due to exceptional circumstances such as injury."
South Africa began the World Cup by fielding five players of colour in their first two matches but then lost JP Duminy and Philander to injury and only played three players of colour - Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir and Farhaan Behardien - in their next three games. They had five players of colour again for their final group match, before again fielding just three players of colour in the quarter-final.
CSA abolished an international quota which demanded four players of colour in every international XI in 2007, but has stepped up its domestic quota since then. From next season, South African franchises will be required to field six players of colour, including three black Africans, as part of what Lorgat calls "aggressive transformation" in a bid to tap into the country's biggest talent pool.
Some critics call that political interference, particularly after South Africa's sports minister Fikile Mbalula spoke to various sports bodies of the need to transform. CSA, like the national rugby and netball associations, has met with Mbalula to explain its progress and chart a course for the future but maintains that does not impact on the selection of the national team.
In the review over the semi-final selection, Hudson, Domingo and Lorgat all said there had been "no instructions or no interference from anyone, specifically not from the Minister of Sport or from members of the CSA Board" to field four players of colour.
Insiders maintain that is not the case and Horn, who was a consultant with South Africa during the World Cup, had been one of them. In an interview with journalists at the Laureaus Sports Awards in Shanghai, Horn explained how he had to inspire a downcast side on whom politics had taken its toll. But on Saturday morning, CSA said he had backtracked from that, despite standing by his word.
"I confirm what I said in the sound bytes and the written articles, but the way it was written was not my sense of what had happened but the interpretation of someone else. I must say I am disappointed at the way my comments were portrayed and a part of me feels let down by the negativity these reports have caused," Horn wrote.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent