SJN Hearings: Clique of white players controlled the team at the 2007 Cricket World Cup, says Roger Telemachus
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JOHANNESBURG – Roger Telemachus said he confronted the clique of players – which he called the ‘Big 5’ – over their alleged control of the South Africa team at the 2007 World Cup.
Speaking at Cricket SA’s Social Justice and Nation Building hearings on Thursday, Telemachus, who didn’t play a single match at the tournament that year, said the five, that included then captain Graeme Smith, effectively ran the team.
“It basically started in the 2007 World Cup. I saw it with my own eyes. I confronted all of them, I wanted to become physical with them. They ran selection, they ran everything, basically everything at the World Cup.”
“Those okes couldn’t be dropped, even when they underperformed. They called the shots, they used to go to the coach and say ‘this is what we want, this is how we are going to play, this is how we are going to pick the team.’ I know, I’ve been there, I’ve seen these things happen in front of my eyes.”
Telemachus testified that the five were all very close, going to dinner together – “even when they weren’t on tour,” – and that it was during those conversations that issues related to the team were discussed.
“When I confronted them with all my issues at the 2007 Wolrd Cup, they couldn’t give me answers. I was straight in their faces, I told them what I think and what they are busy doing. I didn’t get any answers.”
The SJN project was established last year by Cricket SA after a call by Lungi Ngidi for the Proteas to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, exposed an undercurrent of racism within South African cricket.
Asked by Adv. Sandile July, one of commissioners, about the raciall composition of the ‘Big 5,’ Telemachus answered: “This was a group of white players.”
Telemachus spoke about the double standards that exist in South Africa at the moment, related to jobs within the system. Telemachus said he was overlooked for the head coach’s role at KwaZulu Natal Inland, despite having had success in winning trophies and guiding players from the semi-professional level into the now defunct franchise level.
“I applied for that job, but despite my experience, the fact that I have the highest coaching qualification - a Level 4 certificate - they gave the job to someone else, who has less experience and coached at school level and was a batting coach for a T20 team in the Pakistan,” said Telemachus.
That job went to Michael Smith, who was a former head of cricket at Maritzburg College and Grey High School. Telemachus said that when he asked KZN Cricket Union CEO, Heinrich Strydom, why he’d been overlooked for the position, he was told that Smith “brings something different,” to the table.
Telemachus is currently jobless.
Asked by Adv. Dumisa Ntsebeza, the SJN ombudsman, what he wanted from the process, Telemachus replied that he wanted all players, regardless of race, to be treated the same.
“What happened to a lot of black players is that we were unfairly treated. And yes, I’m going to say it, we lost a lot of money in the process too.”
“I just want fairness in the game, especially with Cricket SA, they are the big boss, the mother body. They need to get cricket on track again. Lets treat everybody (fairly). I hope this project, will play a vital role, so that they will listen and understand, why we as black cricketers are speaking out about cricket in the country,” said Telemachus.
“I don’t want things to happen to our kids and grandkids...the same stories all over again. I think it is time to draw the line, where CSA really needs to look into where can we improve and where can we be fair.”