Race not the reason for de Villiers selection

CHLOE SALTAU
Last updated 11:06 19/11/2012
Thami Tsolekile
Reuters
COMFORTABLE: Thami Tsolekile says he is entirely happy with his position in the South African team and has faced no race issues.

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South Africa's back-up wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile has denied race is an issue in his non-selection against Australia. Nor does Tsolekile expect to break into the Proteas team for the second test in Adelaide, starting Thursday.

Instead, he expects AB de Villiers to continue juggling the roles of wicketkeeper and batsman, despite evidence to suggest the extra workload has taken the edge off his batting.

Retired fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, South Africa's first black cricketer, recently claimed Tsolekile would be in the team if he were white.

The specialist gloveman counts Ntini as a hero but said he was not a victim of racial bias.

''What he said was quite disturbing, for me personally. I wouldn't know why he said that,'' Tsolekile told South African media.

''I haven't been involved for eight years, I've come back from the 'wilderness' so to speak, but this set-up at the moment is amazing, it is a great group. It is the kind of set-up you really want to be involved in.

''Makhaya was speaking on behalf of himself, not me. I haven't experienced anything like that. Maybe he has his own reasons for saying that, but I haven't seen or experienced anything 'different' in this set-up.

''The atmosphere has been great and I am very comfortable all the hard work has been recognised.

''Perhaps he was talking from the point of view that he would like to see more African cricketers playing for the Proteas, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly what he meant. All I can say is that, from my side, I am very happy because I know exactly where I stand in the squad and I know exactly what my position is after speaking for a long time with [coach] Gary Kirsten, both in England and here in Australia.''

De Villiers was handed the gloves as an emergency measure in England when Mark Boucher suffered a career-ending eye injury. Tsolekile was added to the squad but the Proteas have preferred to load up de Villiers (and extend the batting) rather than pick a specialist wicketkeeper.

Since taking on the gloves, de Villiers has not scored a half-century. Before the Australian tour, he missed three weeks with a chronic back problem.

The series-ending injury to JP Duminy gives South Africa the option of calling on Tsolekile instead of a specialist batsman, Faf du Plessis or Dean Elgar. However, the 32-year-old was not holding his breath.

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''AB de Villiers is keeping very well - he kept well in England in difficult conditions and I can't see a reason to change the team,'' he said. ''He is batting well, too. He has made starts all the time but just hasn't gone on to make the big scores yet, but he will.

''If he wasn't getting 'in' then maybe it would be different, but he's playing well.''

Tsolekile, who has a first-class batting average of 29, made his test debut eight years ago but said he lacked the self-belief to make the most of his chance. ''It might take three weeks, three months or a year before I play another test match, but it will probably feel like my debut,'' he said.

The South Africans reconvened in Adelaide on Sunday, having dispersed after the Gabba test for four days of fishing, golf and encounters with snakes at Australia Zoo.

- The Age

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