When a “rest” isn’t a rest

Over half a decade ago Lance Klusener was told he was being “rested” for a tour to Bangladesh. The man who told him of his unexpected extra fishing time was selection convenor Omar Henry. It was a disaster.

Klusener, rightly, was advised to consult his lawyers because the ‘rest’ period was very costly indeed. If he had been dropped, then that would have been different. No matter what anybody thought of the decision, it was a subjective viewpoint and very difficult to argue against from a legal point of view.

But South Africa’s labour laws are amongst the most advanced in the world and they are designed to ensure fairness in the workplace for everybody from casual gardeners to government ministers. And cricketers. So, if Klusener was being ‘rested’ then he had every right to regard himself as still a member of the national squad and to be compensated for the loss of income suffered by the enforced ‘rest.’

It was a messy business and cost Cricket South Africa both financially and in terms of its reputation.

Four years later and the same mistake has been made again. Selection convenor Joubert Strydom is an excellent choice for the position and no doubt it wasn’t easy to finalise the squad in just a couple of days after Haroon Lorgat’s departure from office. But, nonetheless, he would appear to have started with a faux pas of embarrassing proportions by telling Kallis a day before the announcement that he was being rested.

Why did he do it? Either he genuinely believes that Kallis isn’t the right sort of cricketer for the Twenty/20 format but felt uncomfortable telling him so, or he disagreed with his fellow selectors (or with the instructions they were given) and felt inclined to disassociate himself from the decision by, in effect, telling Kallis that he had not been dropped after all. Not many people, at this stage, know the answer.

All we can be sure of is that Strydom is a man of endless integrity and personable charm and he would be highly unlikely to shirk any aspect of his new job, no matter how difficult. But Kallis has every reason to feel angry, whether you believe he should be in the squad or not.

On another matter, Kallis has played under five Proteas coaches: Bob Woolmer, Graham Ford, Eric Simons, Ray Jennings and Mickey Arthur. The only one of those men to have occasionally encouraged Kallis to bat with ‘freedom’ was Jennings, but even under him the times when he urged caution far out-weighed those when he urged a more aggressive approach.

In other words, if there was a sentence that best summed up the instructions which have shaped Kallis’ career, it would go something like this: “You are our best player, Jacques, you are the difference between a brittle middle order and a solid one, so don’t get out!”

Now, it would appear, he is being told: “You’re too slow, Jacques, and your record proves it.” That’s even more reason for him to be angry and start “considering the options” for his future.

A quiz question: Who is South Africa’s leading six-hitter in both Test and one-day cricket? Klusener, Justin Kemp? Shaun Pollock? No. Try someone else. Someone who isn’t suited to 20-over cricket.

Maybe Kallis really isn’t suited to this game. But surely his status means he was worth a chance to prove it, a chance to bat without the constant threat of collapse at the other end weighing him down.

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