Lonwabo Tsotsobe banned: From role model to spot-fixing culprit, rise and fall of ex-Proteas pacer

Remember Lonwabo Tsotsobe? The tall left-hand seamer had been a permanent fixture in South Africa's limited-over squads from 2009-2014, rising to No 1 in ICC’s bowler rankings in ODIs before falling out of the radar of the national selectors. His fall from the national selectors' radar was nothing compared to extreme step he took in the 2015 edition of Ram Slam T20, South Africa's domestic 20-over competition.

He was shamelessly involved in attempting to fix matches in the competition, but CSA’s anti-corruption unit identified the culprits and action was taken against six accused, including Alviro Petersen and Thami Tsolekile, former Test cricketers. On Tuesday, he became the seventh player to be handed a ban by the anti-corruption unit, with the 33-year-old was getting an eight-year sentence after he admitted to 10 charges in all.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe holds the record for the fastest South African bowler to 50 ODI wickets. AFP

Lonwabo Tsotsobe holds the record for the fastest South African bowler to 50 ODI wickets. AFP

The rise

A representative of black cricketers in the country, Tsotsobe, along with the legendary Makhaya Ntini, would have been a role model for several budding young cricketers. His career got off to a spectacular start when he picked up 49 wickets at an average of 23.59 for the Warriors in the 2007-08 season. The next season he earned a call-up to the national ODI squad and shined on debut, picking 4/50 against Australia.

The debut performance, a solid evidence of his talent, was enough for South Africa to reward him with a central contract. Dubbed as a limited-overs bowler, Tsotsobe did not have the pace associated with South Africa's legacy of quick bowlers. However, what he lacked for in pace, he made up in terms of accuracy and variations, a trait that stood him in good stead in ODIs.

His elevation to the Test squad followed soon and he churned in an impressive display against a visiting Indian side, picking up the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni and Rahul Dravid, no mean feat for a medium-pace bowler in a country which produces fast bowlers at the rate of knots.


Fitness issues and injury concerns clouded Tsotsobe's career throughout his time with the national squad. However, that did not prevent him from stamping his presence in the Proteas line-up. By 2012, Tsotsobe had unassumingly climbed the ladders of ICC’s ODI bowler rankings and stood at the helm after a series against New Zealand. He became the quickest South African to the 50 ODI wickets, achieving it in 27 games.

The downward spiral

His career went downhill rather quickly, with constant injuries hampering his progress in a team that had a plethora of other seam-bowling options. He played his final ODI in December 2013, and although he continue playing T20Is till March next year, it was evident that his international career was on the wane.

He ended his career having played 61 ODIs and 23 T20Is apart from five Test matches. His ODI returns of 94 wickets in 61 matches at 24.96 was a major highlight of his cricketing career.

 


 

In November 2015, CSA’s anti-corruption unit identified seven cricketers as culprits for attempting to fix matches in the Ram Slam tournament. The other six accused — Gulam Bodi, Alviro Petersen, Thami Tsolekile, Jean Symes, Pumelela Matshikwe and Ethy Mbhalati — were handed bans ranging from two years to twenty years.

The verdict on Tsotsobe came late and he is believed to be the last of the accused cricketers.

“The investigative team have completed a thorough and far-reaching investigation. I am satisfied that all the culprits have been duly prosecuted under the Code and, unless we receive or uncover any new or previously undisclosed information, we believe we can now bring this matter to a close," CSA’s anti-corruption unit's chairman Bernard Ngoepe said as revealed in ESPNCricinfo.

Although Tsotsobe's last match for his franchise, the Highveld Lions, came in 2015, the tall seamer was a much respected name in South African cricketing circles prior to the allegation. With CSA set to launch the Global T20 league, the anti-corruption unit wanted to end all issues relating to this spot-fixing attempt, effectively sealing Tsotsobe's fate like the others.

Tsotsobe's apology reads thus:

"I wish to apologise to cricket lovers all over the world. I was, at the time, in a very vulnerable financial state and this dilemma too easily persuaded me to participate in spot-fixing. There are no words to describe the regret I have in relation to my actions and I hope that the cricket world could consider my apology and understand my deepest feeling of remorse."


Published Date: Jul 13, 2017 08:56 am | Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 08:56 am


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