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'If there was a clique, we don't have any evidence of it' - CSA's Eddie Khoza on 'big five' allegations

This came in response to former player Roger Telemachus' testimony that a group of senior white players had a big hand in selection at the 2007 World Cup

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
A young South Africa fan waves a flag in support of his country, South Africa v Afghanistan, Cardiff, June 15, 2019

Eddie Khoza backed the present-day structures put in place by CSA to effectively "detect" untoward issues  •  Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Cricket South Africa has not been able to find "any evidence" that a clique of players influenced selection in the past, and stands by the robustness of its current selection policy, which came into effect in 2014. That was the testimony of Eddie Khoza, CSA's acting head of cricket pathways, who appeared at the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings on Thursday and responded on a variety of issues including controversies in team selection.
Asked specifically about Roger Telemachus' assertion that a group of senior white players known as the "big five" had a big hand in selection at the 2007 World Cup, Khoza, who was not working for CSA at that time, said it was difficult to corroborate some of Telemachus' allegations.
"I do respect Mr Telemachus, he is one of the players who played for the Proteas. But the issue of a clique that controlled selection may not be entirely true, because of the policies we have in place," Khoza said. "From where I am sitting, we tried to verify the statements that he made. We couldn't go to Goolam (Rajah, the former team manager who died of Covid-19 earlier this year). We cannot verify some of the assertions. I have to have the confidence that the policy was followed in terms of what needed to be done. If there was a clique, we don't have any evidence of it."
Khoza conceded the ombudsman's assistant Sandile July's point that if there was a "big five", the players in that clique would not have labelled themselves as such, and that because there was no formal complaint laid at the time does not mean that the experience of players of the likes of Telemachus is invalid. But, he said, things are different now. "Things have changed. We have certain mechanisms we have put in place to detect certain issues," Khoza said. "Our relationship with SACA (the South African Cricketers' Association) is also at a different level. If any player cannot even speak to the union themselves to say I have this issue with CSA, I will hear from SACA.
"At the time of Roger Telemachus, you have to accept that certain things might not have been in place to bring some of these concerns to the fore. It's very unfortunate. I want to make sure everybody that comes through cricket has a positive experience. It was saddening to me listening to some of these former players, who I regard as my heroes, to hear that they went through some of these issues."
CSA's lawyer, Aslam Moosajee, who led Khoza through his testimony, acknowledged that "Roger Telemachus may have suffered from the fact that prior to 2014, there were no clear guidelines on who was ultimately responsible for selection".
The 2014 policy, which excludes the captain from having a vote in selection, came into place after Hussein Manack, a former selector who also appeared at the SJN, proposed that CSA formalise the process. Manack's testimony focused largely on the non-selection of Khaya Zondo for an ODI in India back when AB de Villiers was captain - de Villiers was adamant that an out-of-form David Miller play ahead of Zondo. Khoza said not picking Zondo at the time was a "missed opportunity, especially with the challenges we are faced with trying to encourage black African batters to come to the fore. At the time, Zondo was performing. If we would have taken the opportunity then, how many aspirations of young cricketers would we have reached out to?"
He clarified that a formal complaint was lodged in the Zondo instance and that CSA put in place a subcommittee to investigate. "They felt it was unfair but not on the basis of race," Khoza said. "But we still missed an opportunity."
Khoza maintained that selection is a complex and subjective process, and that CSA is continually refining its process. "Selecting is a very contentious issue. It doesn't matter which sport. When it comes to cricket, there's different views because you are not only playing here at home but you are also playing away and the strength of the type of combinations you might find might differ," he said. "It's an issue that's why we normally leave it to independent people to facilitate for us. We need to make sure they are assertive enough and the bridge between them and the players is brought closer so that there is a better understanding."
The hearings are expected to conclude tomorrow, with the end of CSA's submission and a guest appearance by Michael Holding. Among those whose responses have not been heard are director of cricket Graeme Smith and former captain AB de Villiers. Both have submitted written affidavits, which have not yet been made public.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent