Cricket SA hearings: Ex-selector claims AB de Villiers fought Khaya Zondo's 2015 Proteas selection: 'He wasn't happy'

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AB de Villiers would 'love' to make Proteas comeback.
AB de Villiers would 'love' to make Proteas comeback.
  • AB de Villiers' role in preventing Khaya Zondo from playing for South Africa in India in 2015 was thrust back into the spotlight during Hussein Manack's SJN testimony.
  • The former Proteas selector alleged that De Villiers was not happy with Zondo's possible inclusion for the fifth ODI in Mumbai.
  • David Miller, despite being in poor form, was picked for the decider ahead of Zondo after De Villiers met with then-CEO Haroon Lorgat.

Former Proteas batter and captain AB de Villiers' role in preventing Khaya Zondo from playing for South Africa in India in 2015 was thrust back into the spotlight during Hussein Manack's testimony at the Social Justice and Nation-building (SJN) hearings on Thursday.

Manack, a former Gauteng and Easterns all-rounder, was a national selector at the time under then-chief selector Linda Zondi's leadership.

In his testimony on Thursday, Manack alleged under oath that De Villiers, who was the limited-overs captain, was not happy with Zondo's possible inclusion for the fifth ODI in Mumbai.

READ | Cricket SA invites accused to reply to racism allegations at transformation hearings

The five-match series was tied at 2-2 with David Miller's form - he had scored 13, 0, 33 and 6 in the first four ODIs - had seen his place in the match-day XI for the decider come under pressure.

Manack said Dean Elgar's inclusion in the squad and subsequent appearance in the 214-run series clincher was based on replacing the injured JP Duminy, while Miller's place was under scrutiny to a point where he was pushed up to open in the third ODI in Rajkot, which South Africa won by 18 runs.

Manack said he didn't have an issue with Elgar replacing Duminy, but added that De Villiers' firm diffidence in not having Zondo in the team for the deciding ODI led to a meeting with Cricket South Africa's CEO Haroon Lorgat.

"I felt David Miller needed to be dropped, and if Khaya was the backup batter, we needed to play him. The coach and captain were not happy with me," Manack said.

"We had a discussion, and I got back to the selectors and said 'do we play Khaya or not?'

"There was some disagreement, but the majority of the decision was that Khaya should play.

"I got back to the captain, told him I discussed with the selectors and Khaya should play. The captain was not happy.

"An hour or two later, I got a call from the CEO, and he said he just received a call from the captain who said he is not happy with the team.

"I went to the CEO's room, and I got the distinct impression that the captain was very unhappy to the extent that, reading between the lines, that I thought there was going to be some sort of fall out if he didn't get his team.

"I got a distinct impression that the captain wanted his team. I thought he was going to pull out of the team, threatening not to play. The words were not said, but that's the impression I got."

Sport24 reached out to De Villiers’ representative Ed Griffiths for the former Proteas skippers’ response, who hadn’t replied to messages by the time of publication.

When this publication first reported De Villiers’ role in keeping Zondo out of the team in India, De Villiers admitted to speaking to Lorgat but denied threatening to pulling himself out of the team if the Dolphins man was picked ahead of Miller.

"That is not exactly true," De Villiers told Sport24 through Griffiths last year.

"I did speak to Haroon, who had just arrived in India, and I did tell him I felt we should be backing experience in this game. Emotions were running high, and I remember later being told that one administrator had said they thought I may not be in the right frame of mind to play.

"That may be the origin of that story. In my mind, there was never any question that I would play in the game. Few people have the opportunity to represent their country on the cricket field, and I have always cherished that privilege."

Manack also highlighted another moment ahead of the third Test against England at the Wanderers in 2016, where he says De Villers and the coach at the time suggested Kagiso Rabada be dropped for the game for Hardus Viljoen or Kyle Abbott.

At the time, Rabada's Test career was three matches old, and in the previous Test at Newlands, he'd taken 3/175 on a flat surface where England scored 629/6 declared.

Despite South Africa losing the third Test by seven wickets after collapsing to 83 all out in the second innings, Rabada collected his first five-wicket haul in Test matches.

Abbott didn't play in the Test, while Viljoen, who took a wicket with his first ball when he dismissed Alastair Cook, never played a Test again.

"The decision had to be made between Abbott and Viljoen. One of them we had to pick because Chris Morris was injured. Discussion at practice took place, and they said I think we must drop KG (Rabada). I said on what basis," Manack said.

"Having seen him at the Lions, where he was coming through, I had seen a lot of him. He had a good enough reputation.

"There was a cricketing explanation that maybe the ball wasn't coming out of his hand right. I said, if the ball is not coming out of his hand right, I've been watching him for the last two hours, and he is swinging the ball, and I am comfortable, but if you feel strongly, let me take it back to the rest of panel.

"Everybody on the selection panel was unanimous that Rabada has to play. I got back to the coach. I said here is our decision that Rabada must play.

"They weren't happy with the fact that we had stood our ground. In that Test match, KG got his first five-wicket haul. The next Test match, KG got 13 wickets and SA ended up winning largely because of that."

Manack said that recently retired Test captain Faf du Plessis and De Villiers were chalk and cheese when it came to selectorial matters.

"Faf du Plessis was very good. He was prepared to listen. He never came to a selection meeting demanding his team, and if you gave him a view, he would take it on board and go back and consider," Manack said.

"Other captains, like AB, wanted their team at all cost, and that would create a lot of conflict.

Captains have friends, close buddies, that they go and eat with, and that meant they're not always in the best positions to make objective decisions."

AB De Villiers’ comment will be added to this story once received.

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