Roger Telemachus recalls Proteas 'Big 5' clique and World Cup non-selection

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Former Proteas pacer and KwaZulu-Natal Coastal coach Roger Telemachus
Former Proteas pacer and KwaZulu-Natal Coastal coach Roger Telemachus
Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images
  • Former Proteas pacer Roger Telemachus talked about the existence of a "Big Five" group in the men's national team at the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies.
  • Telemachus was part of that particular World Cup squad, but did not get to play a game.
  • Telemachus said he nearly came to blows with then coach Mickey Arthur over his non-selection.

Former Proteas seamer Roger Telemachus explained the existence of a group called the "Big Five" that ran the men's national team at the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies.

Telemachus, whose 37 ODIs did not encompass any of the games South Africa played in the World Cup, did not mention specific names, but said the group consisted of white players.

South Africa were eliminated at the semi-final stage at that World Cup, with Telemachus saying at the Cricket South Africa (CSA) Cricket for Social Justice and Nation-building (SJN) hearings on Thursday that he confronted the players about his non-selection in the tournament.

"The big five controlled selection and everything and I saw it with my own eyes," Telemachus said.

"I confronted all of them and wanted to become physical with them because I knew what I was talking about.

"That's where we gave the name to these players because they ran selection and everything.

"It was a group of white players and when I confronted them with my issues, they couldn't give me answers because I was in their faces with what they were doing."

Telemachus hadn't played an ODI since 2006 but was selected for the tournament as part of a pace battery, but ended up being the only player not to get a game.

Batter Lungile "Loots" Bosman also only got one game and that was in the Super Eights clash against the West Indies in Grenada.

Telemachus said he was told that one of the fast bowlers had gone down injured and got himself ready to play in the semi-final against Australia in St Lucia.

On the eve of the game, Telemachus said he was told he was not going to play, while he says there also was political pressure from the governing African National Congress to include fellow pacer Makhaya Ntini in the match-day squad.

In the end, neither played as South Africa were soundly thrashed by Ricky Ponting's charges by seven wickets.

Telemachus said he nearly got physical with coach Mickey Arthur.

"I was told that one of the senior bowlers had an injury and I was going to play and I prepared myself," Telemachus said.

"The day before the game, one of our fast bowlers also broke down, but I was told I was going to play. That same day, I was told that I wasn't going to play anymore.

"That broke my heart, I asked why and I was told they received an email from CSA that Makhaya has to play in the semi-final and that the ANC was putting pressure on them because of not having a black African cricketer in the team.

"I almost got physical with the coach, but my question was that why couldn't Makhaya and Roger play together in the semi-final?"

Telemachus said he pleaded consistently with coach Arthur and captain Graeme Smith to get some game time in the tournament.

South Africa were grouped with Australia, Scotland and the Netherlands in Group A. The Scotland and Netherlands were duffed with ease, but Australia inflicted SA with a proper bloodied nose in St Kitts.

"I approached the coach and the captain after we qualified for the Super Sixes (Eights) with two games left and asked them if I can get an opportunity to play," Telemachus said.

"I was told no because they have momentum and they're not going to change the team. I challenged them that there was an opportunity for the guys who are not playing to get a run to keep them going and sharp.

"They told me I'm not going to play, along with the others and they'll stick with the winning team and that's something I could [not] understand. There were dead-rubber games where guys could get a game."

Telemachus, who recently was the coach of the KwaZulu-Natal Coastal semi-professional side, said he wanted to leave the World Cup.

"I told them I was prepared to go home as I felt unhappy and unwelcome there to the point where I was prepared to pay my own ticket," Telemachus said.

"Mr Rajah (Goolam Rajah, team manager) told me I couldn't leave as CSA would have been in trouble because of my actions."

The SJN hearings are set to continue next week, while anybody implicated will be given a right of reply. 

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