Leading Edge: What would Percy Sonn do?

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

IT’S a shame Percy Sonn is no longer around. Or perhaps it’s for his own good given what is going on in the offices in which he ranted and raved with rampant righteousness.

When Sonn ordered a selection on transformation grounds he explained why – Jacques Rudolph could not replace Lance Klusener in the middle order for the third test against Australia in Sydney in January, 2002 because Rudolph had been picked in the squad as a top order batsman. And the squad contained a spare middle order batsman in Justin Ontong. Finish. Klaar.

You could argue with Sonn about what his decision would do to the psyches of Rudolph and Ontong. You could tell him he was being shortsighted and heavy-handed. You could call him arrogant. But he was right.

Thirteen years on the lesson Sonn handed down has not been learnt. Instead the current crop of suits are wearing no clothes.

Different and disparate sources have told Sunday Times that the SA XI that played in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in Auckland last month was not the first choice of the team or its immediate management but rather of CSA’s board. This week, mad Mike Horn, SA’s mumbo jumbo consultant, said so on the record.

CSA’s response has been to bar the people who depend on them for a living from speaking out on the issue. Their heavyweights, meanwhile, continue to deny, deny, deny in ever stranger terms.

Having been accused of sending Russell Domingo an SMS insisting that another black player be picked, CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said, “There was no SMS, WhatsApp or BBM sent by me to the coach …”

That raised more questions than it answered. Lorgat didn’t deny an email or a phone call, or indeed a face-to-face conversation. And what if he relayed his message through someone beside the coach?

When Sunday Times asked Chris Nenzani whether Vernon Philander played ahead of Kyle Abbott on transformation grounds the CSA president replied: “Team management could perhaps be in a better position to respond to your query. However let me state that I have not in the past interfered with the selection of the team and I do not intend to do so in the future. We have always emphasised that national team selection must be on merit.”

So Nenzani didn’t pull the trigger. That leaves a slew of suspects who might have. Why did he not take them out of the equation? Because he knows different or because he doesn’t know what they got up to? And you can “emphasise” something without doing it. As for “merit”, what does that mean in a country where the quota used to be 11 white players?

Yes, SA should pick more black players. But Philander, half-crocked and short of match practice as he clearly was, has earned the respect he was not shown. So does Abbott.

What would Percy do? Who knows, but we know this – he would tell us.

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