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SJN hearings – Linda Zondi on why he turned down AB de Villiers when wanted to return for 2019 World Cup

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South Africa’s then-chief selector says such a decision would have been “unethical to the players already selected”

AB de Villiers‘ availability for the 2019 World Cup was brought to the attention of South Africa’s then-chief selector Linda Zondi two days before the squad was announced, but was turned down because it would’ve been unfair on players already selected.

Zondi appeared before Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) Social Justice and National-Building (SJN) committee to discuss various selections that took place under his watch. Specifically, Zondi went over the incident which saw a de Villiers’ return to the national side, a year after leaving the international game, shot down.

“When AB took a break [in 2017], he didn’t share the information with me,” Zondi said. “I contacted him and said I wasn’t happy with what you have done and he apologised. Then there was the World Cup, which was a massive story. The captain [Faf du Plessis] came to me and said AB would like to be included in the World Cup. I turned it down because AB had earlier come to me and said he wanted to retire and I told him [then] we need you in the World Cup in England. If there are certain series you miss, we can work with that. I said I am happy to manage your time and you can retire after the World Cup. He said no, he wants to retire. Then, Faf came that AB wanted to return. I turned it down. I thought it was unethical to the players who were part of the squad.”
Zondi also provided more detail on the case of Khaya Zondo, whose non-selection has become, over the course of the hearings, a central illustration of the complexities of selection in South Africa over the years.
Former selector Hussein Manack has already claimed at the hearings that de Villiers blocked Zondo’s selection for an ODI against India.

“What happened on the day was, because I wasn’t there, the selector on tour became the final decision-maker,” Zondi said. “I’m glad Hussein came and confessed that he had pressure put on him. I was clear with him that I was very unhappy with the decision.”

Zondi said Manack had called the selection panel on the previous evening and they agreed that Zondo would play. “He contacted us the night before saying JP is injured, so we will need a replacement. Secondly, we have David Miller who is not in form. The first thing we had to deal with was to fly in a replacement from South Africa. Because even if Khaya played, we still needed to have a back-up.

“We said fine, it’s not a difficult situation. Khaya must play. Khaya had been to India. He was in form. He was a batter, and the spot was in his position. He would not have been thrown in the deep end. It was a no-brainer. Khaya must play. It was made clear to Hussein that Khaya must play. In the morning, I turned on the TV and I saw Khaya was not playing.

“He [Hussein] shared the information with the captain AB de Villiers and according to Hussein, AB was unhappy. He sensed AB put him in a corner. He felt Dean Elgar, because of experience, should play, and Hussein gave in. When he gave in, he didn’t come back to me and said we are changing our decision. AB knew that I was a full-time convenor. At any stage, if the captain was not happy with the selection, he should have contacted me. The CEO [Haroon Lorgat] was on tour and the CEO himself entertained the discussion. The captain didn’t come to me, the CEO didn’t come to me. When the team came back to South Africa, I made sure the right process was followed and Khaya played in the next series.”

In a response to ESPNcricinfo in August, de Villiers did not deny that leaving Zondo out was his call but said he felt it was for the benefit of the team. “It is obviously difficult to pick apart selection discussions many years later, and recollections will vary. However, I can unequivocally state that my input to such discussions was always motivated only by what I considered to be best for the team, and nothing else.”

Despite that incident, and his frustration with de Villiers, Zondi said he never experienced any racism from de Villiers and “never had any issues with him in terms of him undermining me because I was a black convenor”.

Zondi also spoke of his experience over the exclusion of Thami Tsolekile from the Test team in the 2013-14 season. Tsolekile was nationally contracted and identified as Mark Boucher’s successor in 2012 but did not play in series in England or Australia because de Villiers was preferred. Tsolekile was told by then convenor Andrew Hudson that he would play in the following home series against New Zealand but de Villiers chose to stay on as wicketkeeper, before Quinton de Kock made his debut in February 2014.

By then, Zondi had joined the selection panel and been part of discussions over whether Tsolekile should play or de Kock should debut when Alviro Petersen was injured against Australia. Zondi’s view was that Tsolekile should play, but he was outvoted 3-2 on the selection panel. “I personally went to Graeme Smith to speak to him as a captain,” Zondi said. “I said to him that I believe it’s important we see Thami playing. To his credit, Smith said he will take the team from the convener and play that team. We voted on it and it ended up being 3-2, and then Thami didn’t play and wasn’t in the team given to Smith.”

The panel at the time consisted of Hudson, former national player Shafiek Abrahams, Zondi, Manack and national coach Russell Domingo. Zondi and Manack voted in favour of Tsolekile playing while the other three voted against it. None of Hudson, who serves on CSA’s board currently, Abrahams or Domingo are due to testify at the SJN.

Zondi maintained that during his time in selection he aimed to balance objectives between ensuring transformation goals were being met and that the South African team remained a world-class outfit. “I made sure that the black African players we picked were good enough; that they were world-class. And in doing so, we couldn’t put aside the white players who were doing well within the structures.

“We did very well in saying there was no white player who was good enough who never played. For example, [Rassie] van der Dussen, was one of those guys who were doing well in the franchise system and we played him. We had to make sure we created balance.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent



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Green vs Stokes? Let Cam be his own man

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The clash of the allrounders will be a closely watched head-to-head but there still needs to patience with Green



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SJN report – Another delay as CSA ombudsman asks for week’s extension

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“We will have a board meeting soon after we receive the report and then we will release it publicly,” CSA acting CEO Pholetsi Moseki

CSA’s Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) report will be delivered to the organisation a week later than scheduled, with the ombudsman, Dumisa Ntsebeza, requesting an extension to the revised November 30 deadline. The report will now be sent to the board on December 6.

Pholetsi Moseki, the CSA acting chief executive, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the report would be made public after the board has spent time deliberating on its contents: “We will have a board meeting soon after we receive the report and then we will release it publicly.”

The report will contain recommendations made by Ntsebeza on issues relating to discrimination in South African cricket, and is expected to cover issues around the culture in the national teams, selection, match fees, and the grassroots.

CSA is not obligated to implement any of Ntsebeza’s suggestions, but is likely to act on at least some of them.

This is the second time the report has been delayed after it was initially expected to be completed by September 30. The deadline had to be extended after several parties that were implicated in the first phase of testimonies between July 5 and August 6 requested for time to compile their replies, which was granted.
The second phase of testimonies was held in October and included responses by current head coach Mark Boucher, director of cricket Graeme Smith, and former men’s captain AB de Villiers. All three submitted written affidavits and did not appear before the SJN to give oral evidence, and only Boucher’s statement has been made public so far.
Although Ntsebeza had previously indicated that the process could do with more time, it has already run for most of 2021 after the first call for submissions was put out at the end of April. It is believed that CSA had budgeted Rand 5 million (US$ 350,000 approx) for the project but the amount has gone up because of the extensions. The costs have come at a time when CSA is waiting to see if its coffers will be filled by an India tour, scheduled to begin in mid-December but in doubt because of the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in southern Africa.

South Africa’s men’s team is also due to play New Zealand (away) and Bangladesh (at home) this summer, while the women’s team is scheduled to host West Indies before the Women’s World Cup.

Last week, CSA confirmed that all national teams would continue to take a knee before each match this season to show solidarity with the fight against racism.



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Manchester United owners acquire team in UAE T20 League

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After failed bids to acquire an IPL franchise, the Glazers have made their first formal foray into cricket

Manchester United Football Club’s American owner, Lancer Capital, has made its first foray into cricket by acquiring a franchise in the soon-to-be-launched UAE T20 League. The update came a week after Reliance Industries, the owner of Mumbai Indians in the IPL, also announced their investment in the league through a franchise ownership.

“I am very excited to be a part of UAE T20 at its formation,” Avram Glazer, chairman of Lancer Capital, said in a statement. “UAE T20 promises to be a world class event that will be transformative to the growth of cricket in the Emirates.”

Last month, Lancer Capitals was among the final shortlisted bidders for the two new IPL franchises, eventually losing out to RPSG Group and CVC Capital, the groups that acquired the Lucknow and Ahmedabad franchises respectively.

Out of the nine bids, Lancer Capital had posted the lowest bid at INR 4128.65 crore (US$ 551 million approx.) for the Ahmedabad franchise, and INR 4023 crore (US$ 537 million approx.) for the Lucknow franchise.

The latest investment adds to the company’s portfolio in the sporting world: the Glazer family also owns Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I am very excited to welcome Mr. Glazer to the UAE T20 Family,” Khalid Al Zarooni, UAE T20 League chairman, said. “To have a partner who has invested into sports properties with a long term investment perspective is a testament to the strength of the UAE T20 League’s Business Model and its value proposition to its stakeholders and an ode to the UAE as the destination of choice for global sports events.”

The owners of the Knight Riders T20 teams are also understood to be “on-board” to own one of the teams in the UAE event. Capri Global, which also made a failed bid for the two new IPL franchises, Big Bash League’s Sydney Sixers, and Kiran Kumar Grandhi, a co-owner of Delhi Capitals, are believed to be among the other interested parties.

The six-team league has been sanctioned by the Emirates Cricket Board and is looking to make room for itself in the January-February window, although its inaugural edition in 2022 is likely to be played in February-March.



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