Kyle Abbot’s decision to sign a Kolpack deal last week spells danger for the future of South African cricket.
The news comes after former Protea’s Stiaan van Zyl, Hardus Viljoin and Simon Harmer all signed the same deal late last year.
Abbott will be joined by current South African player, Rilee Rossouw, after the duo signed for English side, Hampshire, effectively ending their representative careers. The deal allows the two to play for the county side without being considered as ‘overseas players’.
While South African cricketers moving abroad are not an unfamiliar concept, the growing trend should raise red flags. Not only are the numbers increasing, but the players are getting younger and younger.
Former South African under-19 captain, Keaton Jennings, recently made his debut for England, while another former South African under-19 captain, Chad Bowes, recently starred for Canterbury in their T20 domestic competition in New Zealand.
While it’s not guaranteed either or that any of the other players that opted to leave would of received higher representative honours had they stayed, it’s the ramifications it will have on the first-class scene that should worry Cricket South Africa.
The loss of such quality players will not only mean the forfeiture of their South African representative career, but it will also hinder the development of players who decide to stay.
Players touted as future Protea’s will now be playing with, and against other players who quite simply, would never have been deemed good enough to play first-class cricket just a few years ago, but have benefited from the large exodus in talent.
Cricket South Africa needs to step in and identify possible solutions. Whilst they cannot compete with the lifestyle or financial support other nations offer, the controversy regarding the quota system implemented needs to be addressed.
Within domestic cricket, the system means that six players of colour need to be picked, with no less than three being Black African. With white players fighting for only five available spots, the prospect of playing overseas would be very tempting.
Controversy surrounding the quota system came to light when Kyle Abbott was famously left out of the side to play New Zealand in the World Cup Semi-Final, despite taking nine wickets, at an average of 14. The decision was made to include seemingly unfit Vernon Philander, in order to meet the quota of six players of colour.
With core members opting to effectively retire from International cricket, younger players leaving and the inevitable decline of South African domestic cricket, Cricket South Africa need to rethink their strategy going forward or the future of South African cricket looks very bleak.