Board orders selectors to play Ontong

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The Independent Online

South Africa selector Graeme Pollock faces disciplinary action after clashing with the United Cricket Board over the Justin Ontong saga.

Pollock could be rapped after voicing his anger with the decision to play Ontong ahead of Jacques Rudolph in the third Test with Australia, which began in Sydney today.

Rudolph, who is white, was originally included in the team as Lance Klusener's replacement.

But UCB president Percy Sonn vetoed the side, and forced the selectors to give a debut to Ontong – who is black.

Pollock, whose nephew Shaun is South Africa captain, also faces censure after he apparently told reporters that Sonn had changed the side.

Sonn later confirmed he had intervened – a move which sparked a major outcry in South Africa and triggered an investigation by the Ministry of Sport.

Sonn told SABC News: "Graeme Pollock has got two choices. Either he complies with the decision and keeps his unhappiness to himself, or he will face the voracity of the UCB structures."

Pollock has publicly disagreed with Sonn's behaviour, hinting it was a political one.

He said: "I think Justin has good cricketing ability and that he has a future, but that doesn't mean that picking him for the Test team right now is the correct decision.

"I don't believe we always think carefully enough about the player himself. How does Justin feel about playing when he knows many of his friends think he's just playing for political reasons?

"Perhaps he's embarrassed about it all, knowing as he does that the rest of the team are aware of what's happening. In some ways, picking a player for political reasons can be seen as a slight on the guy himself."

Ontong got a pair against Australia leg–spinner Stuart MacGill in his only outing for the tourists against New South Wales before Michael Bevan smashed him for 35 runs in just two overs.

The Ministry of Sport confirmed they will contact Sonn, who is in Sydney, tomorrow.

Spokesman Graham Abrahams told PA International: "This is nothing new in South African sport.

"I am sure it is in line with the UCB policy but we will ask for an explanation from Mr Sonn tomorrow."

South Africa's Test squad has an official quota of one player of colour in the side, although unofficially it has been stretched to two in recent times.

This quota system has been severely criticised in the current series against Australia after Steve Waugh's side romped home in the first two Test matches.

Former South Africa players Adrian Kuiper, Pat Symcox and Steven Jack have all warned of serious consequences if the current policy is followed.

Kuiper said: "We say we want to compete with the best in the world but the structure of our cricket just won't allow that. We have got quota systems in the provincial set–up and now in the national team as well.

"If we are going to compete at international level, then firstly our domestic scene needs to be reorganised, then it must be carried through to the national side."

Symcox said: "We can't have our cake and eat it. We want to be the best team in the world and win the 2003 World Cup but we also have to appease political aspirations. The players end up getting caught in the middle."

Jack called on the UCB to clarify the quota issue, and added: "We hear one day that it's one player, and the next day we hear it's two. Now the team gets vetoed because 'a player of colour isn't there.'

"It isn't doing our cricket any good, and the sooner someone stands up and lays down the official policy properly the better."