TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
LAST week Aaron Phangiso was a chucker. This week he isn’t. What gives? More than six degrees of separation, it seems.
Sources have told Times Media that when Phangiso was initially tested he fell foul of the 15 degrees of tolerance permitted for a straightening arm by as many as seven degrees.
Consequently, Cricket SA (CSA) said last Tuesday that the left-arm spinner’s action had been ruled illegal.
That followed a first round of testing on February 26 at the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria (UP), which since December 2014 has been one of five testing centres around the world accredited by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Phangiso spent the next few days trying to straighten himself out with the help of CSA’s high performance manager, Vincent Barnes, and the SA team’s spin consultant, Claude Henderson.
On Monday he was back in the laboratory for more tests. On Wednesday he was cleared to resume bowling.
Phew. That meant Phangiso could fly off to India on Thursday with rest of the SA squad to play in the World T20.
If only the story was that simple.
Also last Tuesday, sports minister Fikile Mbalula implored “the leadership and administrators within CSA to save the talent and future of this black diamond and other players who might be faced with similar misfortunes”.
“All this should not serve as ammunition to those who continue to slow our transformation objectives,” Mbalula said.
On Wednesday, after Phangiso’s ban was lifted, Mbalula fired off another missive: “I thank the leadership and administrators of CSA for prioritising this matter and ensuring it came to finality before the (WT20). I raised my concerns and called upon the leadership and administrators of CSA to act having full confidence in Aaron Phangiso.”
Did that mean CSA or the ministry had put pressure on the people in the white coats to give Phangiso the green light?
“None whatsoever,” Helen Bayne, an internationally respected authority on bowling actions, the head biomechanist at Tuks Sport, a member of the ICC’s panel of human movement specialists as well as of CSA’s research committee, said on Thursday.
Bayne decides whether bowlers reported for a suspect action have work to do. She would not comment on her testing of Phangiso but her denial would seem to snuff out theories of interference by the suits.
Another version out there is that Phangiso landed in this spot of bother as a warning by the game’s establishment to black African players to not rock the racial boat.
“They’re cross with them for that and they want them to know it,” a source said on Thursday with reference to a group calling themselves Black Cricketers in Unity, which wrote a letter to CSA in November asking why black players in squads were not included in the XI more often.
Phangiso is a case in point. He was the only black african member of SA’s squad at the 2015 World Cup – and the only member of that squad not to play a match.
What are Phangiso’s chances of getting a game at the WT20 considering he is behind Imran Tahir in the spinners’ pecking order and the fact that he did not play in the series against Australia because of the rigmarole over his action?
“I can’t guarantee anybody a selection,” SA coach Russell Domingo said. “We need to pick our best XI all the time because there are four (group) games and if you slip up … that can be the end of your World Cup.”
Good luck, Mr Phangiso.