It is now one month since South Africa’s painful World Cup exit and a range of questions still remain despite Cricket South Africa’s defiant dead-batting of any suggestions there was interference in the selection of the team for that semi-final against New Zealand.
Fresh questions have sprung up like: Why would Mike Horn say things like “It doesn’t matter how politics or the quota influenced the players” and “Now we need to fill gaps, now we have to make the difference with less but give more,” if there hadn’t been any interference?
If three players of colour was sufficient for half the games the Proteas played at the World Cup, including the quarterfinal, why would that not be the case for the semi-final?
Why do CSA not understand how Aaron Phangiso not playing a single game at the World Cup is a disaster for transformation?
And, perhaps most tellingly, if there was no interference, why hasn’t a single player stood up and told the media to leave the whole selection saga in the past?
The players are understandably reticent to break out of the corral and speak openly about what happened on tour because there have been precedents before where players have been victimised or punished either openly or behind the scenes for speaking out of turn.
But all is clearly not well in South African cricket, even if CSA still want to live in la-la land with investigations conducted by their own directors and statements that are playing with semantics. Six months after the launch of the #ProteaFire campaign, the public trust in our cricket administrators is back to the minimal levels of 2009-2012 during the Gerald Majola bonus scandal.
Their rapid investigation last week immediately reminded me of former CSA acting president AK Khan’s investigation which cleared Majola of any serious wrongdoing, but which was subsequently described as a “cover-up” by the Nicholson Inquiry.
Team unity is often a fragile thing after the bitter disappointment of defeat, but it is clear that the players believe there was interference, it is they who have been driving the rumours as the media speak to people once-removed from the side. Even this week, I had fresh corroboration of the interference from someone, intimately involved in cricket, who had spoken to one of the players of colour in the team.
In order for our national team to bloom as they move forward into fresh challenges, this selection issue needs to be dealt with in a manner that satisfies not just the CSA board, but also the players and the stakeholders of the game – the public.
Personally, I believe the first step in achieving this is for captain AB de Villiers – the only player who really knows what happened in the selection meeting – to speak out and reveal what the truth is from his eyes.
De Villiers will not be the first captain who didn’t get his preferred team – rightly so because selection panels are there to balance out the views of the skipper to avoid the risk of cliques developing in the side – but as South Africa’s finest cricketer, he is in the unique position of being able to speak out because surely not even the CSA board would dare to punish him for honesty?
It would not be the first time there has been interference in selection – the cases of Jacques Rudolph and Charl Langeveldt readily spring to mind – but it would also not be the first time there has been a misunderstanding between the captain and the selectors.
There have also been suggestions that the Proteas are reacting to their own poor performance by making a controversial selection the scapegoat.
Whatever the case, the responsibility now rests on De Villiers, as the leader of the team, to lance South African cricket’s festering boil as soon as possible.