DateLine: 14th August 2006
South Africa's cricket team on Sunday ridiculed suggestions they had nicknamed Muslim teammate Hashim Amla a "terrorist", a jibe that cost Dean Jones his television job.
Jones, a former Australian Test star, was sacked as a commentator last week after being heard on air saying "the terrorist has got another wicket" when the long-bearded Amla took a catch against Sri Lanka in the second Test at Colombo.
Former Australian captain Allan Border jumped to Jones' defence in a newspaper interview, saying the South Africans themselves "jokingly" referred to Amla as a terrorist.
"I am told a lot of the South African players had jokingly referred to Amla as the terrorist," Border was quoted as saying in Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper on Saturday. "But it was an in-house joke, you would never say publicly. And Deano wasn't meaning for it to be public."
Gordon Templeton, the media manager of the South African team currently touring Sri Lanka, said Border was trying to shield his teammate with a "lot of nonsense."
"I have spoken to the boys, the manager and the coach and none of them say they ever nicknamed Hashim a terrorist," Templeton told AFP. "Hashim and his religious beliefs are respected by the guys. I can categorically deny that he has ever had that nickname, and nor has he ever been made fun of in that way. Border is just trying to shift the blame with a lot of nonsense."
Jones admitted making the remark during what was supposed to be a commercial break, but viewers in South Africa heard him because the TV station there beaming the match did not go for a break.
A complaint from Cricket South Africa forced TEN Sports, the Dubai-based TV company covering the series, to terminate Jones' freelance contract and put him on the first flight home.
Amla, a 23-year-old batsman, has played seven Tests for South Africa, but is not part of the one-day squad that begins a tri-series against India and Sri Lanka here from Monday.
Jones has since apologized to Amla, admitting "it was a silly and completely insensitive thing to say."
Jones played 52 Tests and 164 one-day internationals for Australia between 1984 and 1994 and was named the Wisden cricketer of the year in 1990.
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