Tsolekile believes he will become a regular face on the national team soon enough
South Africa wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile has dismissed speculation that his constant overlooking for a spot in the national team is due to race.
Tsolekile’s comments come after legendary South African pace bowler Makhaya Ntini noted that race was the main factor as to why the specialist keeper still cannot cement his spot in the national team.
Tsolekile was thought to be veteran keeper Mark Boucher’s successor after his career-ending freak eye injury against Somerset during the summer, but he is still yet to play a match since AB de Villiers donned the gloves for the entire series against England, throughout the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 and most recently in the three-Test series against Australia.
Despite Cricket South Africa stating that Tsolekile’s non-selection came down to strategy, Ntini still believes that race is the major factor.
Just under a month ago, Ntini said that Tsolekile “would have been playing if he was white” and also questioned why there was only one black player in the national team.
However, Tsolekile defended Ntini’s comments, saying that he was just caught up in the moment.
“Having played most of my cricket in the township and, with Makhaya, also growing up in the township, obviously he was an icon,” Tsolikile said. “He has done very well over the years. What he said was quite disturbing and I wouldn’t know why he said that.
“He was speaking on behalf of himself. Maybe he has got his own reasons for why he said that. The fact is that he is talking from a point [of view] where he wishes to and would love to see more African players playing for the Proteas. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what he meant.”
Since South Africa’s readmission to the game in 1991, Ntini was the only black player to feature in the team regularly, but after his retirement, pace bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe has been the only black player in the squad.
Many cricket pundits thought that Tsolekile would be the next black South African to represent the national team after he had an outstanding first-class season, but that is still yet to happen.
Instead of taking a racial approach as to why he has been constantly overlooked by the national selectors, Tsolekile decided a less controversial attitude would be beneficial for himself and everyone else.
“I feel good that I have been recognised and I’ve spoken to the selectors. I’m happy because I know exactly where I stand. I had a long chat with Gary in England and again in Australia, and I think he made it clear where I stand and I am happy with that,” he said.
As of right now, Tsolekile still does not know when he will play a Test match once again.
“It might take three weeks, three months or a year for me to play another Test match. I don’t know,” he added.
However, de Villiers does not look to take the gloves off any time soon, even though he has been struggling with some back and ankle issues as of late.
Looking back on his disappointing start to the Test series against Australia, de Villiers said: “I got a lot of value out of both my innings [in Brisbane]. I was in in both innings. I felt like I could score a hundred in both innings and I had the energy to do so. It’s a little unfair to look at the stats. I’ve only had seven or eight innings as a wicketkeeper and there’s still a lot to come. It’s got nothing to do with wicketkeeping, or energy levels, or mental fatigue or anything of that sort. I just haven’t been able to push through.”
But, with Jean Paul (JP) Duminy being ruled out for the next six months with a ruptured Achilles tendon, Tsolekile may have just got the breakthrough he has been searching for.