Johannesburg: Russell Domingo, coach of the South African cricket team, has revealed that Lonwabo Tsotsobe was not in the original squad for the recent tour of Sri Lanka and that there were concerns over the left-arm pace bowler's fitness and work ethic.
"I would like to state categorically and very honestly that Tsotsobe wasn't included in the fifteen to go to Sri Lanka. I had massive concerns about his fitness, his form and possibly his work ethic at that stage," said Domingo told reporters after South Africa's arrival back home on Thursday. "Tsotsobe was very comfortable staying behind, working at the high performance centre, and getting himself back into condition because I firmly believe Tsotsobe is a massive asset in our one-day side.
"He is one of the best bowlers in the world. We need a fit, firing Lonwabo Tsotsobe. It might not be a coincidence that when some of his form has dipped a little bit, the team's bowling as a whole dipped a little bit because he is such an important bowler for us. After canvassing some opinions and chatting to him, we decided to take him with [us] and work on his fitness in the first two or three weeks to try and get him to a position where he could perform to his maximum.
"He worked really hard in those first two or three weeks and I was very pleased and encouraged with what I saw. And that hard work was proved in his first performance in Pallekele, where he probably won the game for us."
Tsotsobe, 29, had an up-and-down tour of Sri Lanka. In his latest outing, the third Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, he conceded 49 runs in his four overs, let a ball go through his legs on the boundary, and dropped a routine catch. In three matches he managed three wickets an average of 25.66 and economy rate of 7.
Tsotsobe was better in the preceding ODIs, taking six wickets in three games at an average of 20.33 and economy rate of 5.08. He too four wickets in ODI at Pallekele, but often sprayed the ball around the pitch and conceded runs at the death. When not bowling, he showed that he continues to be a liability in South Africa's fielding effort.
Domingo went on to strongly suggest that Tsotsobe needs to sharpen his fitness and improve his fielding if he wants to continue to play for South Africa. "We've still got some way to go. I am a big fan of his. He offers a lot to the side in terms of his skills with the new ball, and his skills when he bowls cutters," he added. "Maybe it was a good thing that he wasn't included to make him realise he also needs to pull up his socks to a certain degree. And we also need to give him as much opportunity to develop for us, because he is a gun bowler in this format."