Hussein Manack says he regrets not standing up for Khaya Zondo after AB de Villiers blocked his selection
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JOHANNESBURG – Former national selector, Hussein Manack told the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings that he regretted not standing his ground and picking Khaya Zondo for the series-deciding One-Day International against India in 2015.
Zondo’s non-selection in that match, played in Mumbai in October of that year, was the catalyst for a dramatic split along racial lines in the national team. A group of black players wrote a letter to Cricket SA’s Board at the time, signing it ‘#BibsMustFall’ stating that they were tired of only being viewed as good enough to be squad members but not to start matches for the Proteas.
Zondo had been part of the squad in India, and with the series tied 2-2, he was left out of the starting team, while Dean Elgar, who had flown in to be part of the Test squad which played a series that followed the One-Dayers, was picked to start that match.
“I look back and I feel I gave in to the captain (AB de Villiers), and maybe I should have stood firm,” Manack told the SJN on Thursday.
Manack said that in his time as a selector, that the incident in Mumbai was the “most difficult,” he’d encountered.
The incident with Zondo has been used in more than one testimony as an illustration of how black players feel they have been mistreated in South African cricket in the post-unity years. Manack was the selector, who accompanied the squad for that series and would thus have held talks with the captain, De Villiers and the coach at that time Russell Domingo, over the composition of the final XI, that took to the field.
Manack’s was one of the most detailed accounts of the affair, and included he’d held hours of meetings with De Villiers, and talks with CSA’s then CEO Haroon Lorgat, who had also fielded a call from an unhappy De Villiers.
“I got the distinct impression that there would be some sort of fall out if he didn’t get his team,” said Manack.
“I genuinely felt he was going to pull out of the team, he was threatening not to play, that’s what I felt, although those words were not said to me. The captain felt very, very strongly.”
Manack revealed that in his talks with De Villiers at the time, the then Proteas skipper felt that Zondo, who had yet to play an international match at that time, lacked experience and would struggle to cope with a big crowd. Dave Miller, who Manack felt was out of form and deserved to be dropped, was the player De Villiers wanted to retain, citing Miller’s experience of playing in India in the IPL among the reasons why.
“The captain was extremely adamant that he didn’t want Khaya in the team,” said Manack.
“I just felt the fall out of me standing my ground at that stage, would have, I think, made things worse for the team and made things worse for Khaya, because if he played, after I’d insisted he played, and he didn’t score runs and the team lost, I think he would have been blamed for it. So all those things were going through my mind. I still look back at the moment and think; should I have been stronger? Should I have stood my ground?”
“The captain was extremely popular in India, and if the team had lost and he goes out and says, ‘we lost because of this selection.’ I do regret it, but I had no choice, I was boxed into a corner,” Manack explained.
In a subsequent conversation with Zondo, on a later tour to India, Manack said the right hand batsman, claimed he understood the pressure, Manack was under. “Khaya and I had a chat in India a few years back. It affected him quite a bit after that. He said to me that he understood that I had been placed in a very difficult situation, because everyone knew it was the captain, who’d absolutely insisted that he doesn’t want Khaya in the team.”