Why CSA must address Kolpak talent drain urgently
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.