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Johannesburg – Despite being a “back-up” player in just one of the three formats Thami Tsolekile has hung on to a national contract for another year.
Tsolekile was among 21 players handed national contracts by Cricket South Africa for the next 12 months on Tuesday.
While the remaining 20 players announced by Cricket SA are all involved in at least one of the formats – or in the case of Wayne Parnell and Marchant de Lange are close to selection for all three – Tsolekile hasn’t played a Test since being awarded a contract last year.
He is also well down the pecking order for the limited overs formats with the selectors having showed their hand earlier this season by elevating his Highveld Lions teammate Quinton de Kock into the T20 and ODI squads.
Tsolekile was the subject of plenty of controversy after South Africa’s tour to Australia when he revealed that the selectors no longer considered him an option for the Test side because AB de Villiers was happy to take the gloves following Mark Boucher’s unfortunate retirement.
Tsolekile said he hadn’t been properly informed by the selectors about where he stood, remarks that led to selection convener Andrew Hudson being called before the Cricket SA hierarchy to explain his stance on transformation.
Tsolekile, 32, is unlikely to feature in the Test side unless there’s an injury to De Villiers. South Africa’s next Test series is against Pakistan in October.
Meanwhile, Aaron Phangiso, Tsolekile’s close friend at the Lions, was among four new players to be awarded contracts. De Lange, Rory Kleinveldt and Dean Elgar were the others awarded 12-month contracts according to a new formula used by the selectors and the national team’s management which measured value to the Proteas across all three formats.
“The newcomers to the list are all merited,” said Hudson. “This is a very strong group of core players which combines youth and experience across the three formats,” he added.
Ryan McLaren, who wasn’t among those contracted last season, has been put back on the list following some excellent performances in the limited overs formats this season.
McLaren has finally been given an extended run in the ODI and T20 sides and the benefits of that policy have paid off for him not only in terms of form but now also by his establishment as one of the country’s elite players.
The players no longer contracted are Mark Boucher (retired), Ashwell Prince, Albie Morkel and Jacques Rudolph.
Morkel, who last played internationally at the World T20 in Sri Lanka last year, might count himself the unluckiest while Kyle Abbott – a debutant across all three formats in the last two weeks – and Farhaan Behardien, who features in the T20 and ODI sides, may also feel unfortunate about missing out.
De Lange, who last played for South Africa in New Zealand last year, but was subsequently sidelined with a stress fracture in his back, has slowly made his way back this season and with a slightly remodelled action – to help his back – is still bowling at more than 150km/h.
Parnell, who has played three Tests, 27 ODIs and 17 T20 Internationals, has spent a protracted period on the sidelines with injuries and a lack of confidence but is back to somewhere approaching his best form and is currently among the best bowlers in the domestic T20 competition.
Contracted players: Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Marchant de Lange, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, Morné Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.