Former selection chief Linda Zondi opens up on Tsolekile, Phangiso at SJN hearings

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Thami Tsolekile (Gallo)
Thami Tsolekile (Gallo)
  • Former Proteas convenor of selectors Linda Zondi said he fought for Thami Tsolekile to be in the Test team in 2014.
  • Zondi said he was beaten in a vote that was a fair democratic process.
  • The former convenor of selector also said he offered Phangiso an opportunity to play red-ball cricket.

Former Proteas convenor of selectors Linda Zondi said he fought hard to get Thami Tsolekile to play Test cricket in 2014, but was beaten in a selection meeting vote.

Testifying at the Cricket South Africa Cricket for Social Justice and Nation-building hearings on Thursday, Zondi said he and Hussein Manack lost a selectorial vote for Tsolekile to play in the second Test against Australia in Gqeberha in March 2014.

The other selectors were convenor Andrew Hudson, then-coach Russell Domingo and former ODI spinner Shafiek Abrahams.

Zondi said this was contrary to radio interviews Tsolekile had where he branded Zondi as a puppet, with Zondi saying that he spoke to then captain Graeme Smith, who said he was happy to accept any team given to him by selector.

That particular Test turned out to be Smith's second-last as a player and captain, while also marking the Test debut of Quinton de Kock, who played in the place of the injured Alviro Petersen.

"There was a meeting ahead of a Test that was going to take place in Port Elizabeth where we really pushed hard for Thami to be in the team," Zondi said.

"When we started in 2013, there wasn't a selection policy in place and the captain was part of the panel, leading to more influence.

"For that game, the decision was that Thami wasn't going to play, but we pushed hard for Thami to play.

"We pushed hard to collapse the meeting and in the second meeting in Durban, we again pushed hard for Thami to get into the team.

"With how the meeting went, if it came down to a vote, it was going to the 3-2 against Thami, which occurred that way and we lost in a democratic process."

Zondi also explained how current Titans spinner Aaron Phangiso spurned an opportunity to play red-ball cricket that would have opened a path for him to play for the Test team on the ill-fated India tour of late 2015.

The tour was infamous for its ODI leg where Khaya Zondo was turfed for the final ODI of that series, but in his testimony, Phangiso also lamented the lack of opportunities that came his way.

Zondi said the need to keep the delicate balance between bat and ball informed why Phangiso didn't get many opportunities, but when a different path was paved for him, he turned it down.

"If a series is won, opportunities must be given to players of colour, so each policy had its own consequences," Zondi said.

"One of them was that if players went on tour, they didn't play, but in Phangiso's case, when an opportunity arose, the plan was to get him involved in the Test setup for longevity purposes.

"Tahir was dominating and for future references, we needed a spinner who could bat and bowl, but Phangiso wasn't playing red-ball cricket for the Lions.

"The South Africa 'A' side was in India at the time and I asked Phangiso to play for the 'A' team and to my surprise, he turned the offer down.

"He was happy to complete the series in South Africa at the time, but we tried to convince him, but he refused.

"We took a different player to the South Africa 'A' side and that player ended up playing for the Test team."

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