Former Proteas spinner Phangiso lays bare pain of not being picked for World Cup matches

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Aaron Phangiso. (Gallo Images)
Aaron Phangiso. (Gallo Images)
  • Former Proteas spinner Aaron Phangiso has opened up on the pain of being a regular squad member, but not getting game time at International Cricket Council tournaments.
  • Phangiso went to four ICC tournaments, but only played three matches in all of them.
  • He didn't get a run in the 2014 T20 World Cup and 2015 50-over World Cup, with his outings coming in the 2013 Champions Trophy (one) and 2016 T20 World Cup (two).

Former Proteas spinner Aaron Phangiso has opened up on the pain of being a squad member that did not get a game at the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

Speaking on the sixth day of the Cricket South Africa Cricket for Social Justice and Nation-building (SJN) hearings on Tuesday, Phangiso spoke about how not playing at tournaments despite being a squad member damaged him emotionally.

The now 37-year-old left-arm spinner was the only black African player in the 15-man Proteas squad for the 2015 World Cup and did not get a game.

That tournament was the second time Phangiso had gone to an International Cricket Council tournament without playing a game.

He was also part of the 2014 T20 World Cup sojourn where South Africa reached the semi-finals in Bangladesh, but he did not play there either.

Phangiso, who spent the bulk of his career at the Lions, but now will be playing for North-West, played only three games across the four ICC tournaments he went to.

He played one game against Pakistan at the 2013 Champions Trophy and two against Sri Lanka and the West Indies at the 2016 T20 World Cup.

Phangiso took the SJN back to his first ICC tournament experience in Bangladesh where he didn't play under the coaching/captain combination of Russell Domingo and AB de Villiers.

"I went to Bangladesh and I didn't get a chance to play. It was in the sub-continent and it only made sense that you would play your spinners," he said.

"When you ask the coaches and the management as to what [I] need to do to get an opportunity to play, showcase my talent or to contribute, it's always the same answer.

"'Wait your turn and your chance will come'. I played with Imran Tahir at the Lions and we always played in the same team, but when I asked the playing question, I was told that Imran was the number one spinner and we'll stick with him.

"It was heartbreaking because you could see other teams, even Australia with their pace bowling, picked teams that were dictated to by the conditions. Everyone was playing two to three spinners.

"I remember one game where India only used two overs of pace and the other 18 was taken up by spin.

"We stuck by one spinner in Imran and the other excuse I was given was JP Duminy bowling a couple of overs of spin when it wasn't his specialty, even though he was handy."

Phangiso then recollected his harsh experience of the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, a tournament that's remembered for the Kyle Abbott/Vernon Philander selection debacle in the semi-final against New Zealand in Auckland.

While the Proteas were in Pool B where they lost to India and Pakistan, there were also games against the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe and Ireland where Phangiso wasn't given a run.

Phangiso said the experience left him dispirited.

"I was happy to go to a World Cup, thinking I was going to get a chance this time to contribute, but going into that tournament as the only African player was tough," Phangiso said.

"I don't think the public understands how tough it is to be the only person of your own race in the squad. You're away from home and no one can relate to your things.

"We're there for more than a month, you're alone with no game time and getting excuses. I could go to the coach and say that Imran is doing well, but if you look at most of the games Imran and I have played together, we dominate teams.

"The toughest part is disappointing your family and you sit at home, getting call after call from the media questioning your ability. You get into an exhausting mental state."

In searching for answers, Phangiso said his ports of call were De Villiers, Domingo and any selector that was travelling with the team at the time.

He said Tahir, who was SA's best spinner and a player Phangiso had no qualms playing second fiddle to, was used as a convenient selectorial excuse.

"When you talk to guys like AB, the coach and the senior players and you look for reasons, for them, it's always about what the selectors think regarding the best 11 for the day," Phangiso said.

"There are people above them, so it's easy for them to shift blame and say it's not their call. When you go to the people who are above the coach, they can't say because they're not in camp.

"When you go to the coach, which was Domingo at the time, he'd tell you about conditions and Imran. Those excuses were always the same and Imran was their blanket reason.

"I was never given a reason that said my form is lacking, it was always Imran or wait for your turn."

Phangiso's last ICC outing with the men's national team was in the India-hosted 2016 T20 World Cup where he had to fight to get games against Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

SA picked Tahir as the sole frontline spinner against England in Mumbai, a night game where England, who played two spinners in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid while pressing Joe Root into service, made 230/8 batting second.

"I've played cricket for a long time and I know when the conditions don't allow me to play and I know when they do," said Phangiso.

"When the conditions allow, my stats will tell you that I do well. In the 2016 T20 World Cup in India, the conditions demanded two spinners.

"In the England game in Mumbai, we only played one spinner while England bowled four (three), with Joe Root also getting overs in.

"I didn't play in that game and the second one until I had a lengthy chat with the coach and told him everyone is playing two spinners while we're trusting pace in conditions that didn't allow for that.

"The media came hard at the coach for not playing me and when I played against Sri Lanka, I got man of the match and also played well against the West Indies. It was too late because we were already out of the competition."

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