‘They’re go­ing to miss him’

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

For­mer Proteas coach Eric Si­mons is con­cerned that fast bowler Kyle Ab­bott’s de­par­ture may desta­bilise the Protea’s re­cent progress.

Ab­bott had his con­tract with Cricket SA ter­mi­nated abruptly af­ter re­veal­ing he had signed a Kol­pak deal with English County side Hamp­shire this week, mean­ing he is un­avail­able for the Proteas as early as Thurs­day, when they play their third and fi­nal test against Sri Lanka in Jo­han­nes­burg.

A Kol­pak con­tract gives a ci­ti­zen (in this case a player) from out­side Europe equal work rights as some­one from an EU coun­try. In re­turn the player sac­ri­fices the right to play for his na­tive coun­try and misses out on global tour­na­ments such as World Cups or the Olympics.

While not crit­i­cal at all of the 29year-old’s de­ci­sion, Si­mons was more wor­ried about its pos­si­ble reper­cus­sions on the Proteas’ re­mark­able resur­gence in the past six months, a pe­riod in which they won three test se­ries (against New Zealand, Aus­tralia and Sri Lanka) and an ODI se­ries against the Aussies by a 5-0 white­wash.

“He’s played a crit­i­cal role for the team,” he said.

“We talk about the team hav­ing such a sense of unity. I think they’re go­ing to miss him a lot.” Si­mons said there was an­other con­cern, from a play­ing per­spec­tive: “The way he bowls. It is re­lent­less pres­sure. He gives noth­ing away.

“When you have a guy like that and Ver­non Phi­lan­der to keep things tight, a guy like [Kag­iso] Rabada, who is still young, can af­ford to be a lit­tle way­ward and grow in a sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment.”

With the er­ratic but much-im­proved Wayne Par­nell and the un­capped Duanne Olivier waiting in the wings, Si­mons said: “The ques­tion is, can you find some­one to do the same things Ab­bott can do and also be able to sup­port Rabada’s de­vel­op­ment?”

Si­mons, who coached the Proteas at the 2003 World Cup, said Ab­bott’s de­par­ture was the only damp­ener on an oth­er­wise dras­tic re­cov­ery by Rus­sell Domingo from the 18 months in which they lost their 2015 World Cup semifinal, were un­der­whelm­ing at the World T20 tour­na­ment, and lost two test se­ries to In­dia and Eng­land.

The come­back has been so ruth­less and swift that, just six months later, they are poised for the sec­ond rank­ing in tests and are sec­ond in ODIs af­ter slip­ping as far as sev­enth in the for­mer. Si­mons said the cap­taincy, Neil McKen­zie’s in­flu­ence and team unity were re­spon­si­ble for the turnaround.

“I was never a fan of their three­cap­tain struc­ture, where they had three dif­fer­ent cap­tains for each for­mat.

“This is not about Faf [du Plessis] be­ing cap­tain. It’s about hav­ing one cap­tain, and one voice, across all for­mats. I’ve worked with Neil and coached him, so I know the kind of per­son­al­ity he brings.

“He’s pos­i­tive and has a sense of hu­mour. You can see his in­flu­ence in the bats­men play­ing with a lot more free­dom.

“The third thing is that I get a sense the guys are re­ally play­ing for one an­other. I’ve lis­tened very care­fully to their in­ter­views, and the guys’ hu­mil­ity comes through. You get a sense they un­der­stand that there’s a big­ger pic­ture than them­selves.”

. Mean­while, there is no end in sight to the ex­o­dus of lead­ing crick­eters from the Proteas team, with two more play­ers likely to be lost to South African se­lec­tors.

Rap­port, City Press’ sis­ter news­pa­per, has learnt that all­rounder David Wiese has signed a Kol­pak agree­ment with the English county team Sus­sex, while fast bowler Marchant de Lange could join Glam­or­gan in the near future.

PHOTO: BACK­PAGEPIX

CATCH ME LATER Tal­ented fast bowler Kyle Ab­bott has ditched the Proteas for Hamp­shire

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