Proteas

Thami Tsolekile on Graeme Smith: 'The least I expected was an apology'

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Thami Tsolekile (Gallo)
Thami Tsolekile (Gallo)
  • Thami Tsolekile expects an apology from Graeme Smith for what he experienced during his days in the Proteas set-up.
  • Tsolekile, banned from the game for 12 years for match fixing, launched a tirade at Smith in a conversation with Robert Marawa this week.
  • Smith responded to the allegations, saying he had no say in the final team selections that saw Tsolekile sidelined in England in 2012.

Former Proteas wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile, serving a 12-year ban from the game for his role in South Africa's 2015 match-fixing scandal, wants current Director of Cricket (DOC) and former national captain Graeme Smith to apologise to him. 

On Thursday night, Tsolekile appeared on Robert Marawa's Marawa Sport Worldwide for the third time in eight days as he continued to highlight what he considered to be a series of injustices experienced during his playing days and involvement in the national set-up. 

On the same show on Tuesday night, Tsolekile, now 39, aimed a tirade of attacks and questions at Smith.

He said he had been inspired and "left in tears" by the story of Makhaya Ntini, who last month shared his own experiences of loneliness during his days in the Proteas set-up. Tsolekile accused Smith of leaving him out of social activities on tour and facilitating a culture of division in the national set-up.

High up on the list of Tsolekile's grievances was what he experienced in England in 2012 when, after Mark Boucher's career-ending injury and with Smith as captain, he was first included as a late addition in the squad and then left out of the starting XI for the entirety of the three-match Test series, which South Africa won 2-0. 

Tsolekile described the decision to give AB de Villiers the gloves for the series as "pure racism", despite then coach Gary Kirsten having confirmed ahead of Tsolekile's arrival in camp that De Villiers would likely take the gloves. 

While De Villiers had not kept for the majority of the time that Boucher was still playing, his move to wicketkeeping on the England tour opened up a position at No 7 in the batting order for JP Duminy, who could also bowl, and Kirsten and the Proteas brains trust were sold on that extra depth in both departments. 

Tsolekile, then, was included in the squad as a back-up to De Villiers having last represented the Proteas in 2004. 

"In case of the 2012 tour to England, which Thami has alluded to, there was a whole panel of selectors," Smith said in a statement on Thursday, emphasising the point that, as captain, he was not responsible for team selection. 

"Thami was in the squad as reserve keeper to AB de Villiers and this was communicated to him on both the England and Australian tours by Gary Kirsten, which has been previously acknowledged by Thami."

Tsolekile responded: "It's a lie. They picked Mark Boucher as a keeper and I was told I was the reserve keeper."

On Tuesday, Tsolekile had pointed to his batting statistics during the 2011/12 domestic season, where he had averaged 59.50 for the Lions in four-day cricket, as evidence that he was ready to make the step up for another crack at an international level. 

Smith, in his statement, acknowledged how difficult it must have been for Tsolekile to be sidelined while Boucher, considered one of the best wicketkeeper/batsmen in the history of the game, occupied his Proteas place.

"Unfortunately, Thami was a wicketkeeper, which meant he was only ever fighting for one position," Smith said. 

"I can understand how frustrating that must have been, and there have been several other excellent wicketkeepers that South African cricket never saw on an international stage, because keepers tend to stay in a team for long periods of time."

Tsolekile says that, during that tour of England, he had wanted to relay his concerns over his non-selection to then sports minister Fikile Mbalula, who had visited the side during the tour.

Having been given an assurance from the minister that a conversation would be had, Mbalula then left the country, Tsolekile said, before that meeting. 

"He could've come and listened to my cries, and I could have told him why I deserved to play," Tsolekile said on Thursday.

"I went into my [hotel] room and looked at the roof ... if there was a cord there, maybe I would've committed suicide."

Tsolekile had also highlighted the disparities in pay between himself and Smith, saying that he had earned a mere R25 000 per tour as opposed to what he said was R400 000 per tour for Smith. 

"I also never had any say on the financial structure," Smith said. 

"I did not determine contracts, and I also did not decide match fees. I was a player."

Another one of Tsolekile's attacks on Smith centred around the allegation that he often would return home from international tours on his own flight and alone. 

In expanding on this on Thursday, though, Tsolekile revealed that those decisions were his own and that, towards the end of Test series abroad, his unhappiness in the environment had prompted him to request a flight home while his team-mates were still playing. 

"Graeme Smith, you have divided us in a manner that I never had any hope of playing for the Proteas under your leadership," Tsolekile said on Tuesday. 

On Thursday, Marawa then read Smith's statement in response to Tsolekile, who hit back by saying he was disappointed in the fact that no apology had been given.

"Listening to him (Smith) and his statement, he doesn't want to accept anything ... excuses and he's in denial," Tsolekile said. 

"I'm very disappointed. The least I would've accepted from Graeme Smith is: 'Thami Tsolekile, I'm sorry.' And then we'll move on."

Tsolekile's 12-year ban came from his role in the 2015 T20 Ram Slam competition when he, Pumelela Matshikwe, Ethy Mbhalati and Jean Symes were all implicated and then handed bans from the game.

Former Proteas Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Alviro Petersen were also banned.

In his first appearance on Marawa's show last week Wednesday, Tsolekile alleged that the 2015 match-fixing investigation had shielded Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Robbie Frylinck from sanction. 

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has since defended the integrity of that investigation. 

CSA, meanwhile, is now nine months into its disciplinary process into suspended CEO Thabang Moroe and it remains unclear whether or not he will continue in his role.

There are also concerns over the financial health of the organisation and how the coronavirus pandemic will impact the future in that regard.

The CSA board, set to be restructured at next month's AGM, is also problematic and current DOC, Smith, has vocalised what he considers to be an internal agenda at play within senior structures of the organisation that, through media leaks, has aimed to discredit him and the organisation itself.

Acting CEO Jacques Faul is set to step out of that role on 15 September and if the Moroe case is not resolved by then, CSA will have to employ another acting CEO.


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