Morne could be a Kol­pak – but AB has other tar­gets

South African jour­nal­ist Neil Man­thorp gives the in­side track on the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in­side the Proteas’ camp

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

Hashim Amla and Morne Morkel are the lat­est South Africans to be talked up as po­ten­tial Kol­pak play­ers for next sea­son and it is true that both have been of­fered county deals on that ba­sis. Nei­ther, how­ever, has ac­cepted and are highly un­likely to do so un­til the end of March next year.

Like AB de Vil­liers, Amla re­mains de­ter­mined to have another crack at the World Cup in 2019 so, un­less there is a huge change in cir­cum­stances, he will have to see out his play­ing ca­reer in county cricket as an over­seas player. Morkel, how­ever, has said the 2019 tour­na­ment may be “a tour­na­ment too far” and would al­most cer­tainly have ac­cepted one of the three of­fers he re­ceived dur­ing SA’s tour had his form not been so im­pres­sive.

“Things change so quickly in South African cricket,” said a team-mate. “Morne stayed fit and ended up lead­ing the at­tack and tak­ing 19 wick­ets. He wasn’t re­ally sure where he stood be­fore the tour but he ended it as happy play­ing in­ter­na­tional cricket as any of us have seen him. So for now he just wants to keep play­ing for the Proteas.”

Although he would risk a pop­u­lar­ity back­lash should he do so, there would be noth­ing to stop Morkel from em­u­lat­ing former team-mate Kyle Ab­bott and agree­ing to a Kol­pak deal for next sea­son be­fore the im­mi­nent South African in­ter­na­tional sea­son is over.

One man who won’t be sign­ing a Kol­pak deal is de Vil­liers whose con­fused in­ter­na­tional ca­reer finally be­came clear on Wed­nes­day when he stood down from the ODI cap­taincy but did make him­self avail­able once again for all three for­mats of in­ter­na­tional cricket.

The seed which grew into de Vil­liers’ de­ci­sion was sown dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion the bats­man had with former cap­tain Graeme Smith dur­ing the T20 se­ries against Eng­land which fol­lowed South Africa’s dis­mal per­for­mance dur­ing the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy.

Smith typ­i­cally cut straight to the point by telling de Vil­liers that he prob­a­bly didn’t have thick enough skin to han­dle the crit­i­cism that in­evitably comes with the cap­taincy and that it was the lead­er­ship role that was weigh­ing him down, not the ac­tual play­ing.

“I re­minded him that some­times you aren’t aware of how much the cap­taincy can wear you down, not just the crit­ics but the amount of time and off-field com­mit­ments it re­quires.You get used to it af­ter a few years and don’t re­alise how much it takes out of you,” Smith said.

De Vil­liers’ de­ci­sion to make him­self avail­able for Test cricket once again may not last be­yond this sum­mer’s mar­quee se­ries against In­dia and Aus­tralia, both of which ap­peal to him for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Tellingly, his avail­abil­ity for Test cricket kicks in only af­ter the Proteas have opened their tenTest sum­mer with a two-match se­ries against Bangladesh in Potchef­stroom and Bloem­fontein. He may be keen to play again, but not that keen.

His bat spon­sor­ship con­tract with In­dian man­u­fac­turer MRF is worth around $3 mil­lion, ap­prox­i­mately 13 times his an­nual con­tract with Cricket South Africa. In it there is a stip­u­la­tion that he should play all three for­mats and, nat­u­rally, bonuses would ap­ply for long hours on screen dur­ing prime time view­ing in In­dia.

If that sounds like cyn­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion, quite the op­po­site is true of his de­sire to play against Aus­tralia. Since iso­la­tion ended, Test se­ries vic­to­ries have been achieved at home and away against every other na­tion – with the ex­cep­tion of Aus­tralia at home. Three con­sec­u­tive wins Down Un­der but noth­ing to show from seven se­ries at home ex­cept for two draws.

It’s not just the re­sults. The last one, four years ago, was nasty and per­sonal. Among many in­di­vid­ual con­fronta­tions was the one be­tween a still naive David Warner and the then wicket-keep­ing de Vil­liers whom Warner ac­cused of ball tam­per­ing with an abra­sive sec­tion of his gloves. De Vil­liers may be sen­si­tive about his cap­taincy but that’s noth­ing com­pared to the bris­tle gen­er­ated by call­ing him a cheat.

Win­ning the 2019 World Cup re­mains de Vil­liers’ great­est am­bi­tion and it re­mains his pri­or­ity, but win­ning the se­ries against Aus­tralia isn’t far be­hind. Once that se­ries is over, South Africa have a sparse year of Test cricket ahead and he will al­most cer­tainly re­tire from the for­mat then to con­cen­trate on another cou­ple of ICC tro­phy cam­paigns, one in the T20 for­mat and one in the 50-over game.

Kol­pak ‘agents’ re­main on the prowl in the Re­pub­lic, how­ever, and there is no short­age of vol­un­teers among the rank and file of pro­vin­cial crick­eters will­ing to take their chances in Eng­land – and for sub­stan­tially less money than most oth­ers. But it is not just those at the be­gin­ning of their ca­reers who are seek­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties and sta­bil­ity pro­vided by county cricket. It is those two or three years be­fore their ca­reers have even started.

It is dif­fi­cult to track pre­cise num­bers be­cause fam­i­lies do not ad­ver­tise their in­ten­tions or rea­sons, but it is a fact that dozens – per­haps as many as 50 – of white boys have moved to the UK to fin­ish their school ca­reers in the last two years to shorten the time re­quired to qual­ify. They see less and less op­por­tu­nity for them­selves to pur­sue a pro­fes­sional ca­reer with racial quo­tas likely to in­crease rather than be abol­ished in the years ahead.

It is a sign of the ex­treme sen­si­tiv­i­ties which can be cre­ated by the sub­ject in this coun­try that, while ten Kol­pak play­ers have made them­selves avail­able for the player draft in the in­au­gu­ral Global T20 League here in Novem­ber, two have de­cided to play in the Bangladesh Pre­mier League in­stead.

Cameron Del­port, Richard Levi, Colin In­gram, Sti­aan van Zyl, Dane Vi­las, Colin Ack­er­mann, Si­mon Harmer, David Wiese, Marchant de Lange and Har­dus Viljoen have all been named in the draft but the high pro­file Hamp­shire duo of Kyle Ab­bott and Rilee Rossouw have opted for Dhaka rather than Dur­ban.

Win­ning the 2019 World Cup re­mains de Vil­liers’ great­est am­bi­tion but win­ning the home se­ries against Aus­tralia isn’t far be­hind

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

County of­fers: Morne Morkel and Hashim Amla

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