This is a red flag moment – Faf to Cricket SA
“I RESPECT Kyle’s decision. I don’t understand it, but I respect it.”
South Africa’s skipper, Faf du Plessis, in one response yesterday, pretty much summed up the national sentiment around Kyle Abbott’s decision to retire from international cricket at the age of 29, and sign a threeyear deal with Hampshire.
For a man who had just sealed a third straight Test series triumph as captain, Du Plessis cut a sombre figure, no doubt still soaking in the full effects of losing a strike bowler in prime form, in a series of events that he felt could have been avoided.
“I would have understood it more six months ago. It is much harder to understand it now,” Du Plessis sighed.
The Proteas skipper tried long and hard to talk his fast bowler out of the decision to nip short his international prospects, but he finally admitted defeat; he could see that it was a done deal.
“I hope that this is seen as a red flag moment by Cricket South Africa,” he urged.
Those are strong words, given that the collective lure of the pound, so-called security and patriotism are all in the melting pot when it comes to trying to keep South Africa’s best talents here.
There are growing fears that the high-profile exits of Abbott and Rilee Rossouw, on the back of Simon Harmer, Stiaan van Zyl and Hardus Viljoen departing, may see a rash of one-way tickets to Heathrow.
While some of those players have an eye on returning after improving their craft, the likes of Abbott are adamant that it is time to say goodbye, and embrace the comfort of the county scene.
“I was worried about being dropped for four years,” Abbott admitted, by way of explaining his state of mind.
Some may argue that the threat of the chop had subsided in his last four months, ironically after he had committed himself to leaving.
Du Plessis insisted that the powers that be must explore ways to keep talent in South Africa, as he also lamented the loss of Rossouw. While that is the ideal, the reality is that players’ heads get turned by any number of reasons.
“It’s not cash, cash, cash,” Cricket SA chief executive Haroon Lorgat argued, when he was asked if the Kolpak exodus could be curtailed by throwing more money at the problem.
“It’s pride, career, conversations. It’s the investment we make in them holistically. It’s other things. Right now we have got some world-class stars who are not here because we pay them substantial rands.”
Abbott has become the highest-profile casualty to the Kolpak route, and if the alarm bells were on snooze at Cricket SA before, they are now on full blast.
South Africa’s big decision makers pondered what to do to safeguard the likes of Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada down the line. Is the answer in providing football-style, five-year deals that at least buy loyalty?
Or, does a proud Test nation bank on patriotism and international relevance still trumping pounds and domestic bliss?
Abbott joked about having to do grocery shopping after he stops playing, but his decision to leave South African cricket in his prime may well be the ammunition for several other counties to see the South African player market as the proverbial Black Friday.