Why CSA must ad­dress Kol­pak tal­ent drain ur­gently

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

SOUTH African cricket can ill-af­ford a wave of Kol­pak-re­lated in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ments at a point when the na­tional side is be­gin­ning to swing on an up­ward curve af­ter a tur­bu­lent 2015/16 sea­son. Last sum­mer the depth of South African cricket was se­verely tested and it must be said at the time it failed. That fail­ure was down to a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence among the play­ers picked for the team to re­place in­jured stars like Dale Steyn and Ver­non Phi­lan­der.

There were also bad se­lec­tion calls along the way, but that’s a de­bate for an­other col­umn.

With news fil­ter­ing out of Eng­land that Kyle Ab­bott may ditch the Pro­teas for a “Kol­pak” deal with county Hamp­shire – ef­fec­tively fore­go­ing his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer in the process – there is great con­cern about a tal­ent drain sweep­ing through the lo­cal game which could ul­ti­mately im­pact on the Pro­teas brand.

Ef­fec­tively, be­cause of South Africa’s trade deal with the Euro­pean Union, crick­eters can sell them­selves as an en­tity with a trade and have free ac­cess across the EU, in this case al­lowed through the Kol­pak rule. The “Brexit” ref­er­en­dum ear­lier this year, which will see the UK break ties with the EU, will af­fect all of those trade deals, nul­li­fy­ing them in many cases.

It’s a ma­jor con­cern for Cricket SA. Si­mon Harmer, Sti­aan van Zyl and Har­dus Viljoen have al­ready been lost to the Kol­pak rule as play­ers and coun­ties seek to con­clude deals be­fore the “Brexit” rules take full ef­fect.

Hence the hasty moves by Cricket SA this week to seek a meet­ing with Ab­bott’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives about his pos­si­ble deal with Hamp­shire. Ab­bott is a fine seam bowler and also a pa­tient one, who’s un­der­stood his place in the peck­ing or­der as far as the na­tional team is con­cerned.

He knew he could never usurp Steyn, Morné Morkel and Phi­lan­der in their pomp, but when given a chance, if one of that trio was in­jured, he showed just what a high qual­ity bowler he was and he made the depth in South Africa’s bowl­ing stocks that much health­ier.

With Steyn out with a long-term in­jury, he rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish him­self prop­erly in the Test side and pro­duced a Man of the Match per­for­mance in Ho­bart to seal the se­ries against Aus­tralia.

What­ever deal was reached with Hamp­shire, whether he signed or ver­bally agreed, some ar­range­ment must have hap­pened be­fore then, when he was still un­sure about what the fu­ture held for him in­ter­na­tion­ally. At the age of 29 – his peak years as a fast bowler – he is most def­i­nitely en­ti­tled to con­sider of­fers es­pe­cially with a re­ported salary of about R1.7-mil­lion-a-year on the ta­ble.

Cricket SA have to ur­gently ad­dress the po­ten­tial prob­lems an­other wave of Kol­pak sign­ings could have, for ul­ti­mately, it im­pacts on their main brand, the Pro­teas.

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