TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
LIONS coach Geoff Toyana hopes there’s nothing crooked in Aaron Phangiso’s bowling action being declared suspect for the first time in his career after the One-Day Cup semi-final against the Warriors at the Wanderers on Wednesday.
But he confirmed that Lonwabo Tsotsobe – who protested his innocence of match-fixing in an interview with an Indian website published on Thursday – was training with the squad.
Toyana declined to comment when asked why Thami Tsolekile was not practising with the Lions. Calls to Tsolekile’s cellphone number went unanswered.
Former SA, Titans and Lions player Gulam Bodi was banned from cricket for 20 years in January after admitting to his involvement in match-fixing.
Both Tsolekile and Tsotsobe have been linked to the scandal in media reports, though no evidence has been brought against them publicly as Cricket SA (CSA) have refused to give details of their investigation.
However, match-fixing suspects are likely to be suspended by CSA. Lions chief executive Greg Fredericks said on Thursday that “we know absolutely nothing, but besides Bodi nobody has been suspended”.
Left-arm spinner Phangiso has 14 days to have his action tested. The results will be sent to a specialist approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC), who will have another 14 days to decide whether Phangiso chucks – which would see him banned from bowling all or some of his deliveries.
That could complicate Phangiso’s participation in the World T20 in India, which starts on March 8. SA play their first match on March 18.
“‘Phangi’ has played international cricket for three years, and for this to come up now is really baffling,” Toyana said on Thursday.
“When the match officials (referee Tiffie Barnes and umpires Johan Cloete, Shaun George and Adrian Holdstock) called me to talk about his bowling action I was really surprised. At age 32 he’s been called for something that has never been an issue in his career. I’m just hoping there’s nothing behind it.”
Toyana said the “biggest surprise” was that Phangiso has been asked to undergo the tests today. He had agreed, Fredericks said.
“I’m upset about that,” Toyana said. “I hope this is not a way to try and block him from going to the WT20. For this to come up at this stage of his career is really surprising.”
If Phangiso was tested as late as possible, on March 16, his fate could have been decided as late as March 24: after SA’s first two group matches.
In any event, ICC sources said on Thursday the event technical committee would probably allow SA to replace Phangiso in their squad even if he was banned during the tournament.
Toyana insisted Phangiso was an utterly orthodox finger spinner and not a chucker: “I’ll go back and look at the video footage of the game to see if I can pick up anything, but his strength has always been his change of pace and his guile. He doesn’t bowl the one that goes the other way.”
As for Tsotsobe: “Lonwabo has been coming to our training sessions but he’s not match fit yet.”
What about Tsolekile?
“Thami has not trained with us for the past six weeks,” Toyana said.
“Can I not answer that?”
And all that with Toyana on the verge of taking his team to Cape Town to play the Cobras in the One-Day Cup final at Newlands on Sunday.
Sometimes, what happens beyond the boundary overshadows the game itself.