Phangiso puts SA in a pickle

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

RUSSELL Domingo has had to live with his share of losses of form or fitness among players in his 19 years as a coach. But the loss of the legality of left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso’s bowling action is something else.

Not that Domingo hasn’t been shot in this movie before. He was coaching the Warriors in 2006 when the people in the white coats put their protractors next to Johan Botha’s right arm and declared him a chucker.

But, when that happened, Domingo wasn’t 10 days away from taking a squad to the World T20 in India – a squad in which his only frontline containing spinner had been banned from bowling.

That is the reality of Phangiso’s action being ruled illegal on Tuesday following testing on Friday.

“We had a conference call with the selectors (on Monday night) and (convenor) Linda Zondi will probably announce in the next few days, should Phangiso not be able to go to the World Cup, a suitable replacement,” Domingo.

“We have, I suppose, put somebody on stand-by should Phangiso not be allowed to go because of his action.”

Might that somebody be off-spinner Dane Piedt, who had the best economy rate among all bowlers who played at least six games in the franchise One-Day Cup this season?

Phangiso will not be allowed to bowl in the first two of three T20s against Australia, a series that starts at Kingsmead on Friday.

On Monday he will be back with the people in the white coats and their protractors for more testing.

SA gathered in Durban on Tuesday and will train today, and Phangiso can expect to turn his arm over many times – under the steady gaze of Claude Henderson, the team’s spin bowling coach, and Cricket SA (CSA) high performance manager Vincent Barnes – before Monday in a race to iron out the kinks. 

“We’ve got five or six sessions before he gets retested on Monday in Pretoria,” Domingo said. “Hopefully we’ll get a good report on Tuesday or Wednesday and he’s able to join us on Thursday when we leave (for the WT20).

“It’s all the time we’ve been given. We’ve got to rectify what we can over the next couple of days and hopefully he’s deemed legal.”

Phangiso’s fate prompted sports minister Fikile Mbalula to issue a release urging CSA to “save the talent and future of this black diamond”.

“All this should not serve as ammunition to those who continue to slow our transformation objectives,” Mbalula said.

That Phangiso is black African complicates the issue. Just once in the 33 matches SA have played in all formats since the 2015 World Cup have they done so without at least one player from that race group, which claims 79.2% of the population, in their XI.

But the player who ticks enough of Phangiso’s boxes to slip into the selection frame, leg spinner Eddie Leie, hobbled out of the One-Day Cup final at Newlands on Sunday with a hamstring injury.

If Phangiso isn’t on the plane to India and if his replacement is not black African, Kagiso Rabada will be the lone member of the squad on that score.

Domingo also had a reason to be cheerful on Tuesday: “A hungry, fit, energised Dale (Steyn) is a massive plus for us. He hasn’t played for SA for a long time now, and he’s come here with a great attitude.

“He’s desperate to play, he’s desperate to do well. He wants to win a World Cup. He wants to be involved in all levels of the game. His energy levels are right up there.”

Steyn has been out of action since December 28 with a shoulder injury, which followed his contribution to SA’s test series in India in November and December being limited to 11 overs by a groin strain.

But, unlike a worrying amount of the rest of his apparently creaking body, at least his bowling arm is straight.

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