Johannesburg – Thami Tsolekile no longer trusts the national selectors, saying he’s received mixed messages about his absence from the national side and he also does not share their opinion that his presence in the Test XI will weaken the batting.
Tsolekile will play his first serious game of cricket since the Champions League T20 final six weeks ago when he straps on the pads for the Highveld Lions in their Sunfoil Series match against the Warriors starting at the Wanderers this morning.
However he has been left bitterly disappointed by his axing from the South African Test squad for the two-match series against New Zealand, and says that subsequent meetings with national selection convener Andrew Hudson and other selectors have left him even more confused.
“Gary (Kirsten) has been up front with me, he lets me know where I stand. But the explanations I’ve got from different selectors, you wonder if they’ve been in the same meetings. I find it very hard to trust some of the selectors,” Tsolekile said on Wednesday.
“Being left out of the squad is quite disappointing, not because I’m not playing, but because of the reason Andrew Hudson gave me – that he personally feels I’m not good enough to bat at No7 for the Proteas. I was very disappointed to hear that.”
Tsolekile had been awarded with a national contract last year, which placed him very much in the frame as a replacement for Mark Boucher.
The unfortunate incident which befell Boucher in England meant a quick fix needed to be found, and that came in the shape of AB de Villiers donning the gloves for the Test side. “When I spoke to the selectors (last year) I wasn’t expecting to play in England. I went there as a substitute for Bouch, and I had no expectations at all because I wasn’t in the original 15. In Australia I was the back-up ’keeper, and I didn’t have any high expectations. The last time I spoke to the selectors (before the tour to Australia) they said to me I might get a chance against New Zealand, especially if things go well. Because they don’t see New Zealand as a strong Test team.”
Instead Tsolekile has been completely sidelined. When changes were made to the starting XI for the third Test against Australia in Perth, the selectors stuck to the seven batsmen strategy handing a debut to Dean Elgar, a move Tsolekile found perplexing.
“They want to go with seven batsmen, which is understandable if Imran Tahir is (in the starting XI). But now that Robbie P (Robin Peterson) is there, I see no reason why I wasn’t given a chance, because Robbie can bat. If I bat seven, Robbie is eight and Vernon Philander goes at nine. I don’t think that’ll weaken the batting line-up, the depth will be even stronger.”
“Having spoken to Hudson for almost 50 minutes I didn’t get the reason I wanted to get (after NZ squad selection), he said the (selection) panel didn’t believe that I was good enough to bat at seven. It’s their opinion. All I can do now is focus on the Lions, carry on doing what I’ve been doing and try to win trophies.”
Tsolekile has averaged 46.13 with the bat for the Lions in four-day franchise competition in the last three seasons. He has scored a half-century in each of the Lions’ two Sunfoil Series matches this season and claims he is batting better than he ever has in his career.
“Stats don’t lie. As most batters will tell you, everyone only starts knowing their game at the age of 30, 31, 32. Coming (to the Lions) was a good move. It took me out of my comfort zone, which can be good for you. I’m batting the best I’ve been batting in my life, which is why I thought I had a sniff at an opportunity. I feel I know my game, I feel I deserve an opportunity. I don’t want people to do me favours, I want to know I’m playing because I’ve earned my place not because someone else is doing me a favour because of the colour my skin.”
There’ve been increasing murmurings in recent weeks about the make-up of the national team and in particular the absence of a black African player from the starting line-up.
Tsolekile played down remarks made by Makhaya Ntini during SA’s tour to Australia about Tsolekile’s absence being down to his race.
“What Makhaya said, is just his opinion. I don’t want to comment on that. I want to play my cricket and focus on my cricket. I’m just disappointed by opinions from the selectors, who tell me different things.”
Despite the mixed messages, the 32 year old still harbours strong ambitions of playing for South Africa for the first time since 2004. “Motivation comes from within. I come from a township where I never had anything, I’ve always been a street-fighter. I’ve earned and lost contracts, hit the highs and lows, not being selected is not a train smash. I’ll have the same attitude and determination. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing for the Lions.” – The Star