Lorgat admits he was ‘consulted’ over World Cup semi XI

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

CRICKET SA (CSA) admitted on Saturday night that chief executive Haroon Lorgat had been “consulted” about the composition of the SA team who played in the World Cup semi-final last month.

The admission follows CSA officials’ denials of interference in selection for the match, which were first reported by Times Media.

A statement said a review panel comprising three of CSA’s own independent directors had investigated claims that the board or sports minister Fikile Mbalula had insisted that the team include a fourth player of colour.

“The convenor (of selectors, Andrew Hudson) and coach (Russell Domingo) had consulted Lorgat who had impressed upon them the need to properly consider the best XI bearing in mind the transformation guidelines,” a CSA statement said.

According to multiple sources, SA were forced to change the side they wanted – the same team who had thrashed Sri Lanka in the quarter-final. They opted to include Vernon Philander, who was coming back from injury and consequently short of match practice, at the expense of Kyle Abbott, their best bowler in the tournament in terms of average, economy rate and strike rate.

The close-fought match in Auckland on March 24 was decided with the penultimate delivery, which New Zealand’s Grant Elliott smashed for six to stop SA from reaching the World Cup final for what would have been the first time.

But, not for the first time, CSA disputed much of that sequence of events.

“Having successfully undergone a fitness test Philander was declared fit and available for selection by the medical team,” the statement said. “Direct inquiry with him by the coach confirmed his readiness to play.

“Hudson, Domingo and Lorgat confirmed they had received, individually or collectively, no instructions or no interference from anyone, specifically not from the minister of sport or from members of the CSA board.

“Domingo confirmed that he never received an SMS from Lorgat as alleged (in media reports) and Lorgat in turn confirmed that he had never sent an SMS to Domingo.”

The statement said “Hudson and Domingo confirmed, on behalf of the selection panel” their awareness of “transformation guidelines which require the panel to consider, on merit, the selection of at least four players of colour in the starting XI”.

CSA president Chris Nenzani called the reports of interference “unfounded and mischievous”, and the statement said the board would not comment further on the issue.

Earlier on Saturday, CSA tried to quell the fire started by team consultant Mike Horn, who told reporters in Shanghai this week, “What actually happened was the team (originally selected for the semi-final) was the team that played against Sri Lanka (in the quarter-final).”

In a letter that CSA said Horn had written to them, the explorer contradicted himself.

“I confirm what I said in the sound bytes and the written articles but the way it was written was not my sense of what had happened but the interpretation of someone else,” CSA said Horn wrote.

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