CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 11: Vernon Philander of South Africa bowls during the ICC Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and New Zealand at Hagley Park on February 11, 2015 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 11: Vernon Philander of South Africa bowls during the ICC Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and New Zealand at Hagley Park on February 11, 2015 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Row over Philander’s selection

By Kieran Legg And Michael Doman Time of article published Mar 30, 2015

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Those behind suggestions that the decision to field Vernon Philander during the Proteas’ World Cup semi-final clash against New Zealand was a political one aimed at fulfilling a quota of black and coloured players have been slammed as “colonial apartheid apologists”.

Reports suggest that AB de Villiers’s arm was twisted as Cricket SA and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula pushed to fulfil their quota of black and coloured players on the field. But the allegations have been denied amid claims that “colonial apartheid apologists” were behind them.

The reports also suggested that the decision made the captain reluctant to play in the match which SA later lost.

After a shaky start, Philander – who had returned from an injury – performed well with the ball. However, the hamstring injury which had bothered him throughout the tournament meant he later left the field.

Columnist Peter Bruce wrote in Business Day last week that “there is at least room to consider that the decision to play Philander, who’d been selected to play Sri Lanka and pulled out moments before the start of that game, would have been tipped by political rather than merely cricket reasons”.

This point was hammered home in The Times this morning where a “well-placed source”, who declined to be named, reportedly said the panel had to okay four players of colour for the match.

He told the paper that the players were fuming after Philander was forced onto the team sheet, denying a game to Kyle Abbott – who, with 39 wickets in his 28 ODIs – was arguably one of the Proteas’ best bowlers going into the semi-final.

However, both the Department of Sport and Recreation and the cricketing body have denied allegations that they forced the selection panel’s hand.

Mbalula said he had noted speculation that he had interfered in the selection of team players for the World Cup squad.

“We know who is spreading these speculations and we will not dignify them by mentioning their names.”

He continued: “These are acts of desperate colonial apartheid apologists, a very tiny group of a dying breed of political dinosaurs. We shall not be deterred by their mischief.”

The lead director of Cricket South Africa’s board, Advocate Norman Arendse said it was absolute rubbish that the board had got involved in team selection for the semi-final.

On tour, the selection of the team was entirely at the discretion of the coach, captain and tour selector, he added.

“What’s concerning about the criticism (now) is that if you look at the end result… by far the worst performer (with the ball) was our No1 bowler (Dale Steyn).

“So I don’t understand it (the criticism),” Arendse said.

Arendse said speaking personally, he might have selected Abbott in place of Steyn for the semi-final, or picked a batsman fewer and played all three of Philander, Steyn and Abbott.

“Anybody (on the board) will have to reserve comment (on thesemi-final defeat) until we have a full report-back from team management.

“Otherwise it’s highly irresponsible to comment.

“We are all upset that we lost by such a narrow margin.

“To think our best bowler was hit for a six… one would have put your house on that not happening, but it did.

“For anybody to criticise the team and now raise the issue of team selection when there is a pure and simple cricket reason why we lost is under-playing the achievement of the team in reaching the semi-final.”

Cricket South Africa’s chief executive Haroon Lorgat categorically denied any interference in the selection process.

“There was and is no political interference in our selections.

“We have a selection panel that includes the coach and independent members, and this panel selected all the teams at the World Cup in the same way that they did before the World Cup.”

De Villiers was unavailable for comment this morning.

The controversy spread to Twitter, where pundits, columnists and top cricketing figures argued over the speculation.

Sports writer Johan Coetzee said: “I refuse to believe that our captain wouldn’t want to play because one of our best bowlers was

added to the team ahead of a crunch match.”

In a separate tweet, he wrote: “I’m not saying Abbott is not good.

“I’m saying Philander has been our go-to guy in pressure situations for years now.” - Cape Argus

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