Cricket South Africa Director of cricket Graeme Smith has rejected allegations of racial discrimination levelled by former wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile against him. Tsolekile claimed he was sidelined after being earmarked as the successor to Mark Boucher in the national setup during Smith’s rein as the captain, an incident he termed as “pure racism.”Also Read - South Africa's Lizelle Lee Adjudged As ICC Women's ODI Cricketer Of The Year
However, Smith, who led South Africa for almost 11 years has denied being involved in any decision making process resulting in any player’s exclusion including that of Tsolekile. Also Read - South Africa's Marais Erasmus Adjudged As ICC Umpire Of The Year For 2021
“I should emphasise that I was never in charge of selections. I had an opinion as a captain, but the casting vote was with the coach and the selectors,” Smith said in a long statement posted on his official Twitter handle. Also Read - Happy With The Progression Of The Side, Says South Africa Coach Mark Boucher
Tsolekile claimed that he was Boucher’s successor as the first-choice Test wicketkeeper but after the latter picked up an injury during the England tour of 2012, instead AB de Villiers took over the duties.
Smith denies playing any role in his exclusion. “In the case of the 2012 tour to England, which Thami has alluded to, there was a whole panel of selectors. Thami was in the squad as reserve keeper to AB de Villiers and this was communicated to him on both the England and Australian tours by Gary Kirsten, which has been previously acknowledged by Thami,” Smith said.
Smith added, “I also never had any say on the financial structure. I did not determine contracts, and I also did not decide match fees. I was a player.”
Smith said he always had personal relationship challenges with several players cutting across races.
“Thami Tsolekile was my captain at South Africa schools junior level. I have never had an issue with him as a person and he has never borne out the frustrations of his international career on a personal level,” Smith said.
“In fact, my personal relationship challenges with several other players, of all races, have been well documented in the past. It was impossible for me to win everyone’s approval at the same time but that is the nature of professional sport,” he added.
Citing the examples legendary players including the likes of Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener and Makhaya Ntini, Smith said even they fell out of radar once it was decided that the team needs to take a new direction.
“The allegations and insinuations that have been made are extremely hurtful and I deny them in the strongest possible sense,” Smith said.
“Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock can attest to this, and there were very emotional discussions because they are both legends of our cricket history. Shaun was ushered out of the Test team in a similar manner to Makhaya Ntini, when he felt he could have still done a job. Almost every player I have come across feels that they could have contributed more,” he added.
Smith, widely acknowledged as one of the game’s finest captains, also pointed out Thami’s unique position of being a specialist wicketkeeper
“It is easier to shift bowlers and batters around to suit the needs of a team, but some positions are specialist,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, Thami was a wicket-keeper, which meant he was always only fighting for one position.”
“I can understand how frustrating that must have been, and there have been several other excellent wicketkeepers that South African cricket never saw on an international stage, because keepers tend to stay in a team for long periods of time. That is also an international trend, not unique to South Africa.”