South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has cautioned Proteas skipper Graeme Smith to stay out of politics and concentrate on cricket instead.
Mbalula was reacting to a statement released by Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Thursday in which Smith gave his full support to CSA chief executive Gerald Majola after CSA President Mtutuzeli Nyoka publicly accused Majola of having lied to him over IPL bonuses paid to CSA staff last year.
"Graeme Smith is a great captain. We get disturbed when players get to be drawn into internal wrangling and squabbles within the top management and the board," Mbalula said on the radio station 702.
Smith had earlier lent support to CSA chief saying, "Majola has always backed the team to the hilt in every possible way.
"This has applied to every aspect of the game whether it be human resources, facilities or anything else. The players have great faith in him and he must take his share of the credit for the successes we have enjoyed over the last period of time."
Smith's views were endorsed by Proteas team manager Mohammed Moosajee.
"Gerald has been a pillar of strength to the team at all times and has an excellent working relationship both with myself and other senior members of management as well as with Graeme and the players," Moosajee said in a CSA media release.
The insiders, however, said though they were not willing to speak out themselves, not all members of the team were happy with statement made on their behalf, which was seen as clearly taking sides in the battle within the CSA leadership.
The presidents of eleven provincial cricket unions have unanimously called on Nyoka to step down after passing a motion of no confidence in him following a breakdown in his relationship with Majola.
The episode began with a call from the Gauteng Cricket Board last year for an investigation into the handling of the bonuses paid to the CSA for hosting the IPL series in South Africa two years ago because of security concerns in India during the elections there.
An independent inquiry was shelved in favour of an internal one, which subsequently cleared Majola with a slight rap on the knuckles. He had earlier paid back his own bonus.
Questions were also raised about why Smith and Moosajee had made statements via the CSA when Majola has himself maintained a stony silence on the issue despite attempts by media to get a statement out of him.
In an interview to radio station 702, Nyoka had earlier alleged that Majola had lied to him about the IPL bonuses.