Silly indiscretions that just won’t go away

Neil Manthorp – 28/05/2001

For a silly indiscretion, the like of which happens every second day on tour, the dagga smoking incident in Antigua just won’t go away.

Unfortunately, like in the tragic, ‘real’ world of drugs and addiction, the ‘little’ problem that resulted in over-ebullient celebration after the series victory in the fourth Test has led to lies and deceit.

The initial decision to keep the incident ‘private’ was made, I believe, for all the right reasons and although the story might well have leaked out in the years to come, the damage would have been severely limited by faded memory and time itself, which is the greatest healer of small wounds.

Gerald Majola immediately accepted full responsibility for the decision, though it was hardly taken alone, and showed himself to be both responsible and decisive. He admitted that the decision was probably an error and, as he said before he assumed office, he promised to learn from his mistakes.

So the players made a stupid mistake, the Board compounded it, the on-tour disciplinary committee imposed the heaviest fine ever set down on tour and then the penalty was as good as tripled by the embarrassment and difficulty of the whole episode being made public.

Pretty simple, really. So why won’t it go away? Why doesn’t the incident just melt away?

For one very simple reason. The entire squad, including coaches, captain and manager, believe it should have stayed a ‘team matter’ and they are furious that it was ever ‘leaked’ and made public.

There will always be speculation, unfortunately, as to who the ‘whistle-blower’ was. The ‘guilty’ six and everyone else believes the leak came from within the squad.

The day after the fourth Test victory most of the squad moved on to Montserratt for a one-day game against a Vice Chancellor’s XI. Manager Goolam Rajah, who was ill, stayed behind along with Daryll Cullinan who was not playing in that match and Gary Kirsten who spent an extra day with his wife, Deborah, before she returned to South Africa.

When the squad returned from Montserratt they traveled straight on to Montego Bay and it was only there that Rajah called the team meeting at which the guilty six confessed.

It may, of course, only be coincidence that Cullinan and Rajah stayed behind in Antigua and Rajah came to learn of the dagga episode. Cullinan has denied that he ‘grassed’ on his team mates and we must accept his word.

But there is just one question that would be useful to have answered. When Cullinan left the West Indies after the fifth Test, and the team had decided to keep the incident quiet, why did Cullinan leave the team hotel with the words: “Don’t think you’ve heard the last of this…” directed at the naughty miscreants? Did he have a feeling the story would leak out?


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