Pollock on rack as selection debacle grows

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The Independent Online

The South African Test selector Graeme Pollock is facing the sack as the latest crisis to engulf the nation's game deepened yesterday.

The controversy was sparked by the United Cricket Board president, Percy Sonn, who insisted on the inclusion of Justin Ontong in the South Africa side that lost the third Test to Australia by 10 wickets in Sydney on Saturday.

Jacques Rudolph was originally selected as Lance Klusener's replacement for the Sydney Test, but Sonn vetoed the decision as a "matter of policy". He insisted that Ontong, who is coloured, had to play to ensure the UCB's racial quota was met, despite the inclusion of the coloured opener Herschelle Gibbs.

The decision infuriated Pollock and the former Test player revealed Sonn's influence on the selection to reporters. Though he stopped short of naming individuals, Sonn yesterday promised to take action against those responsible for leaking the story. In a front page lead in the Afrikaans newspaper Rapport yesterday, Sonn said: "Those that broke the trust factor will be removed. All officials of the UCB signed a confidentiality clause in their contracts at the beginning of the season.

"It is on paper, in black and white. I can't see how you can trust people who break this trust. They will be removed."

Sonn went on to admit that he had also used his influence to change the Proteas' side last year during tours by Kenya and India but argued: "Nothing was ever said about that."

Pollock's nephew, the current South Africa captain Shaun Pollock, called for his country's policy on selection of black and mixed-race players in the national cricket team to be clarified. "I think having a structure in place and everyone knowing and having it out there for everyone to see does make it less difficult because then you know what to expect," he said. "If everyone knows what's expected, there's no reason to be upset or controversial about any decision that's made."

The South African media was also yesterday clamouring for the resignation of the Proteas' coach, Graham Ford, following the side's disastrous performances during the Test series in Australia.

"If a coach doesn't see to it that his people perform up to standard there should be an inquiry about that," the Sunday Times quoted Sonn as saying.

"If that coach is no longer good for the team then obviously he has breached his contract – our contracts are performance contracts."

The Test series loss to Australia was Ford's first as coach. He has guided South Africa to seven series wins with another drawn and is contracted until after the 2003 World Cup.

Australia will travel to South Africa later this month for the second part of the home-and-away series but the Australia fast bowler, Glenn McGrath, for one, does not believe South Africa are about to redress the balance of their 3-0 series drubbing on home ground.

"Even on home soil I can't see how they can beat us," McGrath said. "We just have to keep going the way we are and the potential to whitewash them 6-0 is a real possibility.

"South Africa will return home with plenty of scars from this Test series and there will be plenty of doubts circling around their heads. They haven't put up a very good show in this series which was billed as the heavyweight championship of cricket.

"Apart from a brief fightback in Sydney, they haven't competed with us at all. Whether we are playing at home or in South Africa, I don't think it will make any difference.

"In South Africa they will be taking us on knowing we have just beaten them 3-0. That will place much more pressure on them to perform and live up to the expectations of their home crowds. And don't think the wickets will help them. South African wickets are similar to Australian wickets and South African crowds are similar to Australian crowds in that they are vocal.

"I'm sure we'll cop a lot over there just as South Africa, no doubt, copped a lot over here. What they will have going for them is that they are a very proud team and getting beaten there will hurt a lot more than getting beaten in Australia, where they can hide a bit."

* The Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie has passed a fitness test and is cleared to play for Australia A in the one-day match against New Zealand in Brisbane tomorrow. Gillespie is hoping to be fit to travel to South Africa later this month.