Thami’s thick skin

It’s been a very long and varied road for Thami Tsolekile. Among the many things he has learned in 15 years of sport and the vagaries of public perception, perhaps the most important has been the ability to develop a thick skin.

An awful lot of misinformed opinion remains around the reasons for his selection as understudy to AB de Villiers in both England and now Australia but he has weathered the storm. There is little he can do to change some opinions.

That he has ‘great hands’ has never been in doubt. In fact, his ability to catch a ball was so eye-catching that he was given a couple of test matches as far back as 2004. Lack of experience on low, turning pitches sometimes found him exposed in terms of positioning, but the hands were impeccable.

He had precious little opportunity to impress with the bat. When he did get to the crease, he failed. Not the first person to do so on debut in India. But first impressions are sometimes extremely difficult to shift. One of the greatest truisms in sport is that “statistics don’t lie.” However – they can easily be MADE to lie.

A profile of Tsolekile before the current domestic season began stated that he played 10 innings since his last 50. True. But it included a sequence of six not out, four not out and 17 not out in a total of 20 balls – all in T20 cricket!

The article also claimed that Tsolekile’s first-class record was poor and that his form had slumped. Actually, his last eight innings included three not outs and a spirited 42 batting at number three against the might of the Cobras attack. He averaged 31 – which may not be great but hardly constitutes a slump for a man usually batting at number seven.

Tsolekile’s batting average in the three years since joining the Lions is 44.5 with three centuries and eight 50s in 35 matches.

Anybody who saw a single match in the Champions League could not have failed to notice him at the epicentre of every Lions success. There was no greater team man in the competition.

His career has been harder and more eventful than almost all of his contemporaries, but forget that for now because it’s irrelevant. He has many excellent rivals for the position of Proteas’ stumper, all of whom have legitimate claims to the job.

But Tsolekile has earned his second chance. His record attests to that – and the national selectors have confirmed it with their own eyes. Let’s all be clear about that.

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