Proteas in England
Mixed feelings for Tsolekile
Thami Tsolekile (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Thami Tsolekile departed for London on Thursday with mixed feelings, after the unfortunate circumstances which brought about his inclusion.
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He joins the Proteas squad on their tour of England as replacement wicketkeeper for Mark Boucher.
"First of all, I would like to say it's very, very unfortunate for Bouch and I really feel for him," Tsolekile said in Johannesburg before his departure.
"A lot of people were behind him but it's an opportunity for me - an opportunity which I really didn't expect."
Boucher returned to South Africa on Wednesday after undergoing eye surgery, following a freak accident when a bail hit him in the left eye during a tour match against Somerset in Taunton.
He also announced his retirement from international cricket.
"I've learned a lot from Bouch over the years both at the Cobras and when I've played against him," Tsolekile said.
"He has broken so many records and I don't want people to compare us.
"He's a true legend and I haven't played a lot of international cricket so, yes, I have big shoes to fill and I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"I'm a fighter and I also bring a lot of energy into the side."
The 31-year-old played three Tests for South Africa in 2004, after Boucher was dropped, but when the latter returned to form, Tsolekile found himself on the sidelines.
"To be honest, if I do get a chance to play, it feels like I will be making my debut because it's been so long since I've played Test cricket," he said.
"At the time, I was only 23-years-old but now I have a lot of first class games under my belt.
"I've done well for the Lions over the past few seasons so that gives me a lot of confidence as well."
Fortunately, Tsolekile is match fit having just played for South Africa 'A' against Sri Lanka 'A'.
"I've just come back from Durban with the SA A side so I've had a bit of preparation," he said.
"I would love to have spent more time at the crease but I'm very fit and very well prepared and I'm looking forward to the tour.
"I've been very lucky that I've been to England twice before with the national side and also played club cricket there, so I am a little familiar with conditions there.
"England are a different animal at home so it's going to be tough."
Tsolekile said he was aware that the fans had high expectations from the South African team during the England tour and hoped they would be able to deliver to the cricket-loving nation.
"We set high standards and the crowd expects a lot from us," he said.
"It's going to be a tight contest, especially between the number one and two Test nations in the world, so hopefully the boys can do well.
"If I do get the opportunity to play, I'll take it with both hands".