Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Lizelle Lee retirement hints at disunity in South Africa camp. Despite making the trip to England, Lee announced her shock international retirement three days before the first ODI.
Despite making the trip to England, Lee announced her shock international retirement three days before the first ODI.
The unstated reasons behind Lizelle Lee's surprise international retirement has turned the spotlight on the unity, or lack thereof, in South Africa's team.
Lee bowed out July 8, four days after playing in the first game of South Africa's tour of England, a 20-over tour match in Cardiff, and three days before the first ODI in Northampton. The timing rang alarm bells: why would she go on tour only to end her South Africa career?
A CSA release on Friday quoted Lee, South Africa's second-highest run-scorer in ODIs and the highest in T20Is, as saying she had “mixed emotions” about her decision, and that she was “ready for the next phase in my career and will continue to play domestic T20 cricket around the world”. The 30-year-old did not explain her move in the release.
On Sunday, South Africa coach Hilton Moreeng was asked during a press conference in Leicester to comment on reports that CSA had been reluctant to give Lee a no-objection certificate to enable her to play in The Hundred in August and September, and that that had been a factor in her calling it quits at the highest level.
Moreeng had no comment, except to say he was “not aware” if CSA were hesitant to give Lee the required clearance. Lee issued a rebuttal on Twitter: “He was definitely aware. I told him in person and it was said in a meeting with CSA.” She said Moreeng had not been in that meeting.
Cricbuzz understands Lee was given the opportunity at the meeting to make changes and additions to the release announcing her retirement, and declined to do so. CSA have flatly denied that her no-objection certificate was an issue, saying it was not mentioned at the meeting with Lee and pointing out that the organisation has allowed players to turn out for franchises even when it doesn't suit the national cause. That was the case when Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen were allowed to choose to play in this year's IPL, which made them unavailable for a Test series against Bangladesh. On top of that, The Hundred does not coincide with South Africa's fixtures.
Lee made her South Africa debut in a T20I against Bangladesh in Potchefstroom in September 2013 and has become a fixture in both white-ball sides and a leading player on the world scene. In January, Lee had been adjudged the ICC Women's ODI Cricketer of the Year for 2021. The way her stellar international career has ended has rocked the dressing room and could be why, at least partly, South Africa are playing below themselves in England.
“It's definitely tough and not something that I expected,” Marizanne Kapp said about the impact of Lee's departure. That was in the wake of England's 114-run win in Bristol on Friday, which followed them chasing down their target of 219 in 32.1 overs in Northampton on Monday. “With Lizelle being one of my best friends, I have been struggling. Mentally I have not been in the best space the last week or so, especially with Lizelle's retirement.”
Moreeng echoed those sentiments on Sunday: “It's tough on everyone because we didn't foresee it was going to happen so quickly. We need to respect the player's decision and just give her some space.”
But, Cricbuzz has been told, there was unhappiness in management circles about what was seen as Lee's growing unruliness. She allegedly was becoming a troublesome voice in the dressing room, with her behaviour apparently extending to not adhering to the squad's schedule. Sources say she is not the only senior player who is giving management headaches over discipline. “They think they're bigger than the game,” one insider said.
The South Africans can ill afford such damaging distraction, having already lost the ODI series and with three T20Is against England and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham to come. With or without Lee, they face a tough challenge to get their performances back on track.