Smith denies being a catalyst

Cape Town/London: South Africa Test captain Graeme Smith has strongly denied recent suggestions that he or his team deliberately provoked England batsman Kevin Pietersen into sending "provocative" text messages to the Proteas players during the recent series between the sides.

"In the Proteas we pride ourselves on being a sporting and ethical team," Smith said in a statement released by the SA Cricketers' Association on Tuesday.

"We talk a lot about values and our approach to the game. We play hard but we play fair and any suggestions that we did this as a tactic is totally unwarranted and unnecessary."

SACA chief executive Tony Irish confirmed that both he and the national players are expecting an apology from Collier for his comments.

"Our players are angered by David Collier's claims that they employed unfair and unsporting tactics against Kevin," said Irish. "By his own admission Mr Collier never saw any text messages, or correspondence, and we know that Kevin himself has never suggested that he was provoked, so where is the evidence for this claim?

"In international cricket if a player makes an inflammatory comment or accusation he gets punished," said Irish. "Look what happened to Kevin Pietersen himself. The players believe that the same should apply to administrators especially when this is done publicly. Our players are awaiting an apology."

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), however, has stood by its chief executive David Collier despite anger from South Africa over his accusation that their team goaded Pietersen into the text exchange that led him to being dropped by England.

The ECB refused to comment but are understood to be firmly behind Collier, one of sport's most low profile chief executives who rarely makes comments, let alone controversial ones.

Collier's remark on Sunday prompted a statement from Cricket South Africa on Monday saying they dismissed with "contempt" his accusation.

"This is absolute rubbish," said Jacques Faul, CSA's acting chief executive. "What is particularly disappointing is that I had a face-to-face meeting with Mr Collier when I was in London for the Lord's Test match.

"He did not raise this allegation with me then and I would have thought as a matter of courtesy and decency he would have spoken to me about it before going public in the media."

The Lord's Test began on Aug 16, the early days of this protracted affair, and much has changed since then. In the lead-up to that Test the South Africans were very sensitive to suggestions they deliberately leaked the messages with Graeme Smith, the captain, denying any skulduggery took place to have Pietersen dropped for a match which would decide the world's No. 1 Test team.

There was a lot of angry bluster in Faul's statement but no demand for an apology and sources have dismissed suggestions that CSA could take legal action. "It is not the way CSA goes about its business and it is not the way the ECB have done business with us in the past either," said Faul.

"It is very disappointing because in the past our relationships with the ECB have always been cordial and constructive. This is an internal ECB matter in which we do not wish to be involved. It served as a distraction to our players that we did not need during the Test series."

With perfect timing, Pietersen was due to arrive in South Africa on Monday to link up with his Indian Premier League franchise, the Delhi DareDevils, to play in the T20 Champions League which starts on Tuesday with Yorkshire facing Sri Lankan side UVA Next in the preliminary round in Johannesburg.

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