Lonwabo Tsotsobe was initially not in the team for the tour of Sri Lanka, admits Russell Domingo

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“We wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing because there had been a downward spiral in his performances”

South Africa coach Russell Domingo has admitted that pace bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe was initially not included in the team for the tour of Sri Lanka as he had “massive concerns about his form, fitness and possibly his work ethic”.

However, despite his “concerns”, Tsotsobe did perform well for the most part, taking six wickets in the ODI series at an average of 20.33 to be second on South Africa’s list of wicket-takers.

He also equalled his career-best bowling figures of four wickets for 22 runs in the third ODI, while also snapping up three wickets in the Twenty20 series at an average of 25.66, with two of them coming in the second Twenty20 International, which helped the Proteas seal the series.

“I had massive concerns about his form, fitness and possibly his work ethic,” Domingo said. “After canvassing some opinion and chatting to him, we decided to take him with [us] and work on his fitness in the first two or three weeks to try and get him to a position where he could perform to his maximum.”

Domingo was also quick to dismiss the speculation that political influence had been a contributing factor.

“There was nothing like that, in terms of politics, but we are fully aware of the need to have black African players in our side and there is a lack of them banging on the door,” he said.

In the past couple of years, Tsotsobe has been the only black player in the national team, but that has changed now as spinner Aaron Phangiso has come in to give him company.

According to Domingo, Tsotsobe was supposed to sit on the bench until he was in tip-top shape, but conceded that it was not made public before the team departed for Sri Lanka.

“We wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing because there had been a downward spiral in his performances,” Domingo said. “If someone’s fitness is lagging, the work ethic may not be good. We had to work on all of that.

“He is seriously skilful and we wanted to keep him close to the group.”

A few days after the team had departed, a local South African newspaper, The Citizen, reported that Tsotsobe had failed a fitness test prior to the tour, but Cricket South Africa refused to confirm whether he had.

Instead, Cricket South Africa told ESPNcricinfo that all the players had been cleared to play by the medical committee and that Tsotsobe’s ankle impingement had flared up once again.

South Africa’s team manager and doctor Mohammed Moosajee confirmed that Tsotsobe’s ankle condition had returned when he started bowling in Colombo.

As a result of his ankle injury, Tsotsobe was ruled out for the first two ODIs to undergo rehabilitation, but was declared fit for the third ODI, which was the only match South Africa won in the five-match ODI series.

With Tsotsobe having excelled with the ball throughout the series, Domingo definitely made the “right decision” by including him in the team.

“He learnt a lesson and he worked hard,” Domingo said.

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