South African cricket captain Graeme Smith said yesterday he would not use politics as an excuse for South Africa's performance in the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies.
A Johannesburg Sunday newspaper quoted Jonty Rhodes, the former South African international and the team's fielding coach at the World Cup, as saying Smith had been hamstrung by the selection policies of Cricket South Africa administrators.
Since emerging from the apartheid era, Cricket South Africa has sought to redress the racial imbalances of the past by including a number of black players in provincial and national teams.
They took seven black players to the West Indies, which prompted a number of commentators to imply South Africa did not take their best 15 to the World Cup. South Africa were well beaten by Australia in the second semifinal of the tournament in St Lucia on Wednesday.
"We were pathetic against Australia," Rhodes told Rapport, "but South Africa is the only land that can't say they had their best 15 players here. "In a tournament like this, where every player in every game has to be at his best, is that a recipe for a problem. Can (CSA) honestly say they gave Graeme the 15 men he needed to win the World Cup?"
Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg after arriving back in South Africa early yesterday, Smith said he had not read the report, but strongly denied the selection policy had hampered the team in any way.
"I would never have said that. That's not an excuse. One of the tough things to control is the outside influences on the team, when there are things said and some lies are flying around. I won't be making any excuses about politics," said Smith.
South African coach Mickey Arthur, who is expected to be offered a new two-year contract, believed his team had the right tactics in the tournament.
After the semifinal loss they were heavily criticised for their overly aggressive batting early on against Australia, which saw them lose five wickets for 27 runs, and only manage a total of 149. Australia won by seven wickets with 111 balls left.
"I can honestly say that there was nothing we would have changed," said Arthur. "I think our preparation was right. Our game plan is the way to go. This is the way one-day cricket has gone, and, to an extent, I think we pioneered it. I believe our tactics and training were right."
South Africa were ranked as the top one-day international team in the world coming into the World Cup, but lost four of their 10 matches at the tournament. Arthur believed his team had nevertheless been successful over the last 12 months.
"We have had a good year," said Arthur. "We won 19 one-day games and lost seven. We were in the semifinal of the Champions Trophy and the World Cup. We won two Test series, four ODI series in a row and became the number one ODI team in the world." - Sapa-AFP
lFor the Cricket World Cup final report see page 17 of Sports Voltage