Former South Africa Graeme Smith has hit back at the racial bias claims by his former teammate Thami Tsolekile. The legendary South Africa cricketer has issued a personal statement on recent allegations made by the former wicketkeeper. Tsolekile joined the likes of Makhaya Ntini and Ashwell Prince in stating that he was racially discriminated during Graeme Smith’s captaincy tenure.
Over the past two weeks, Tsolekile has conducted interviews, insisting that he did not get the chance to replace Mark Boucher in the team despite being his backup. He recalled how he was identified as Boucher’s successor in 2012, only to be sidelined when Boucher was injured in England. He did not get the chance to keep the wickets as South African team-management asked AB de Villiers to don the wicketkeeping gloves. Recalling the incident, Tsolekile said it was ‘pure racism’.
On Tuesday, he took a direct aim at Graeme Smith after the former Proteas skipper told the media he did not know the extent of the difficulties players of colour faced. Tsolekile accused Graeme Smith of dividing the team and stated that there was no unity in the team.
“Graeme Smith, you have divided us in a manner that I never had any hope of playing for the Proteas under your leadership. And there was no unity in the team.
“Graeme Smith, I’m sure you’re aware that [former selection convener] Linda Zondi, the puppet, once said I deserve to play. But his opinion wouldn’t have mattered because you were so powerful,” he said.
Graeme Smith reacts:
Replying to the recent allegations, Graeme Smith has defended himself. The legendary cricketer took to his social media accounts to post a statement where he denied the racial bias claims and stated that he had ‘personal relationship challenges’ with several other players including the likes of Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock.
Speaking about Tsolekile’s claims regarding the wicketkeeping, Graeme Smith insisted that race did not play a role in the decision to replace Boucher with de Villiers. He also stated that Tsolekile was in the squad as a backup to de Villiers and it was told to him by the-then coach Gary Kirsten.
“In the case of the 2012 tour to England, which Thami has alluded to, there was a whole panel of selectors. Thami was in the squad as reserve keeper to AB de Villiers and this was communicated to him on both the England and Australian tours by Gary Kirsten, which has been previously acknowledged by Thami,” he postedin a statement on Instagram.
“Unfortunately, Thami was a wicketkeeper, which meant he was always only fighting for one position. I can understand how frustrating that must have been, and there have been several other excellent wicket-keepers that South African cricket never saw on an international stage, because keepers tend to stay in a team for long periods of time. That is also an international trend, not unique to South Africa,” added Graeme Smith.