Johannesburg: South Africa's cricket board made the unusual move on Saturday of denying social media comments that captain Graeme Smith threatened to quit if black wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile was picked for the Test series against India.
Cricket South Africa said in a statement that it "would like to quash rumours and comments floating around" that Smith had given selectors an ultimatum before the first Test.
CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat was quoted in the statement as saying, "There is no truth at all to these malicious and damaging comments."
“All selection procedures and protocols were followed in the selection of the squad and the playing XI and were signed off by myself and Transformation Manager, Max Jordaan," Lorgat said. He added that as per CSA’s selection policy, the captain is not involved in selection.
The Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA), Fikile Mbalula, said in the statement that while cricket is working towards a transformative agenda, the country would not be side-tracked by "malicious people", during the ongoing first Test match against India at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.
"Cricket, like all sporting codes in the country, is working towards a transformative agenda. We have already stated that in 2014 we will release the work of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Transformation. We will, therefore, not be side-tracked by malicious people during this time of an important match for the nation. To Graeme and the boys I say: focus your energies on winning this Test match," Mbalula said.
Mbalula mentioned that a pilot project is being done on South Africa's big five National Sporting Federations and the results would be released in January 2014.
Mbalula said, "The EPG work regarding this year's results can only be released in January, 2014. A pilot project is being done on the big five National Federations, namely Rugby, Cricket, Football, Netball and Athletics. SRSA has analysed the information and will provide the draft report to the EPG for further consideration in January."
Tsolekile, who was not chosen to play in the first Test, has become relevant to South Africa's struggle to include more black players in national teams after he was overlooked on the tour to England last year when Mark Boucher was injured despite being the backup wicketkeeper.
A report on transformation in South African sport is due next month, with cricket and rugby both admitting there aren't enough black players at the top level.