Outgoing selection chief Zondi: World Cup has consumed me

Linda Zondi (Gallo)
Linda Zondi (Gallo)

Cape Town - Cricket South Africa (CSA) selection convenor Linda Zondi says that choosing the Proteas squad for this year's World Cup consumed him "wholeheartedly".

Zondi, who was celebrating his 43rd birthday on Wednesday, will reach the end of his term as convenor following the completion of the global showpiece in England in July. 

It's been a long road for the Durban-born former provincial wicketkeeper whose career was cut short by injury, but it all leads to this World Cup. 

In 2014, Zondi was a selector for the South African team that won the U-19 World Cup in the UAE. 

Aiden Markram, Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo were all in that side.

"That has been the highlight of this job for me ... seeing the youngsters go through the system," Zondi told Sport24 on Wednesday.

Tasked with assembling a group of players to do what no previous Proteas side has ever been able to, Zondi and the selection panel have played their hand. 

The 15-man squad was named last week, and while he has acknowledged sleepless nights in the process, Zondi now feels quietly optimistic about South Africa's chances. 

"It consumed me wholeheartedly and every day," Zondi said.

"I had to focus on my full-time job at the Department of Health and also put my efforts into the convenorship.

"There were a lot of sleepless nights. I trusted the selection panel, the coach and the captain and we all had a common goal."

South Africa's history at the World Cup is obviously laced in drama, and Zondi knows that all too well. 

"We thought a lot about gelling youth and experience and we also wanted to eliminate this choking tag," he said.

"The only way you can do that is by having young guys and we have players who are winners in their own rights.

"Yes, there were tough decisions, but we made them based on stats and facts and what we felt would be the right combinations."

Zondi pointed to the trio of Rabada, Phehlukwayo and Markram, who have tasted World Cup victory before, as well as the fearless Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen and Lungi Ngidi as players who he was banking on to hold their mettle in England. 

Zondi could still remain at the helm if the CSA board decides to make the convenor position a full-time post, but regardless of what happens he will look back at his time with the Proteas fondly. 

"We have so many quality guys coming through the system, which is a credit to our pipeline and the franchise system," he said.

"To see the team become a representative and non-racial side based on quality first is a great feeling. We have not accepted mediocrity."

South Africa play their first match of the World Cup against hosts England at The Oval on May 30. 

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