Leading Edge: Big ups to Linda Zondi and his panel

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Hobart

LINDA Zondi’s hips don’t lie. Yes, that really was him at the WACA checking out the pitch in the days before the first test.

There aren’t many pukka black Africans roaming the streets of Perth. Which is part of the reason so many white South Africans roam Perth’s suburbs these days.

So selection convenor Zondi stuck out. On other tours and in other circumstances involving other personalities, the kneejerk reaction of those who recognised him out there in his team kit would have been disparaging.

Nice work if you can get it. Freeloader. Suit.

Not this time; not in the wake of South Africa’s 5-0 thrashing of Australia in their one-day series last month, a success in which the selectors played a bigger role than usual by insisting on Rilee Rossouw’s inclusion.

Lest we forget, here’s what Faf du Plessis said at the toss before the second match of that rubber – when Rossouw was preferred to no less a personage than Hashim Amla, who had missed the first match because of a touch of the sniffles:

“Hashim averages 52 in one-day cricket. So, for me, you can never replace that. And if you miss one game with the ’flu then it’s always the respect that you’re given to come back into the team.

“So, if it was my decision, I would definitely bring him back, and the same with the coach. But the selectors felt the combination at the top was working really well.”

That brought this from Paul Harris: “It was fantastic that Faf said it wasn’t him that didn’t pick Hashim Amla – it was the selectors. It’s time we had some honesty. It’s good to see.”

Hell yes. And it’s especially good when that honesty leads to victories over the team South Africa will always want to beat more than any other, not least because of the pile of runs Rossouw scored in that series.

It’s also a sign of maturity and confidence, of a system that – in some respects at least – works.

We know South African cricket has plenty of problems, which have and will be aired and discussed in spaces like this.

But it would be unfair not to acknowledge and indeed celebrate when the game gets it right, and Zondi and his panel are doing exactly that.

Of course, picking the right players at the right time is a world away from those players performing when it counts. Happily for Zondi and his panel, they have.

Rossouw converted the faith shown in him into success.

Andile Phehlukwayo was chutzpah itself in the ODIs against the Australians.

Keshav Maharaj, on his test debut at the WACA, batted, bowled and fielded as if he had been playing at the highest level for years.

Not since convenor Mike Procter and his committee took a punt on a young man called JP Duminy have South Africa’s selectors shown this level of creativity and confidence.

There is no better tonic for any sport anywhere in the world than to see talent come to fruition.

It shuts up the cynics and the reactionaries and buys some credit for when things aren’t going quite so well. It even makes people like me say nice things about the suits.

So, big ups Mr Zondi. Damn fine job you’re doing.

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