It was hard to decide which decision was the most unfathomable – the one the national selectors made to leave Hashim Amla out of the starting XI in the second ODI at the Wanderers, or the one they took to not explain their decision.
Equally hard to understand was their surprise that there was such a hue and cry from so many fans and followers. If it were not for the fact that the entire panel is not only decent, honest and straightforward men, their collective decision might even have been regarded as arrogant and dictatorial, especially with the captain and coach both adamant that Amla should play after recovering from the dose of ‘flu which kept him out of the first game at Centurion on Friday.
There are several things to consider: the first is the fact the convenor of the panel, Linda Zondi, is the only one mandated to speak to the press. There were plenty of examples of previous selection panels making contradictory statements and even admitting that certain decisions were not unanimous which is why we are now in this situation. Unfortunately, it is the approach of an officious headmaster treating an entire class of Matric pupils like 10-year-olds. Punish everyone and treat them all the same.
Zondi is not a natural at speaking to the media or doing press conferences which may be why he chose not to speak on the matter. Two of his colleagues, Erroll Stewart and Hussein Manack, were not permitted to fill in despite the former having conducted hundreds of press conferences in various roles and the latter being a professional broadcaster. The three of them really should be allowed to work it out for themselves and come up with their own media strategy like grown-ups.
Anyway, it appears that their selection policy is actually built on a solid strategy rather than curious whim. They want to build as much depth in every position in the squad as possible before the Champions Trophy in England next June and that, obviously, includes the openers. Secondly, they want to start preparing for life without Amla sooner rather than later so they don’t get caught too ‘cold’ when the great man does finally decide to call it a day.
Third, they appear to be reconsidering the value in South Africa’s long-standing practise of giving fringe players a chance to shine only when the series is ‘dead.’ As any sportsman will attest, there is no substitute for the ‘real thing’ and, although an international cap remains of great value in every game, to score runs and take wickets in a game which really matters is far more beneficial to the player concerned.
We don’t have to agree with their logic, but it is logic. All except their decision to let us know about it, somehow or another.
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