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Club vs Country…

Only if the debate was that simple. This question has lingered on for many years in the soccer circles but now more recently in international cricket. Especially, relevant to South African cricketers.

In the past ,we have seen a large influx of players making their way to English shores. Usually these are players that have concluded their international career in hope to extend their earning potential or those that have been overlooked by selectors in the current set up. However, this is not the case with Abbott and Rossouw.

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Here is my take on each:

Kyle Abbott:

Fantastic cricketer, a home-bred banana boy (those stemming from Natal), 10 wickets on test debut, an accurate and passionate bowler, probably lacks a bit of aggression but will put everything out there on the field. A more than useful lower order batsman too and someone who you could rely on for that twenty odd runs at the tail end of an innings.

Just over a year ago he left the Kwa-Zulu Natal franchise to go play for the Warriors. He along with Miller left at the same time. Reasons unknown but rumor has it that it was due to mismanagement by officials running the game in Durban as well as their displeasure at Lance Klusener not being offered an extension to his head coach contract.

His move to a smaller franchise, showed that he wasn’t someone chasing trophies at the other bigger cricketing franchises in SA. Also, the likes of the Titans, Cobras and Lions could offer him a more lucrative contact too.

At 29, he probably is at the peak of his fast bowling career and what he chooses to do in the next 3 years will dictate the legacy of his career and how he will be remembered.  The truth is that Abbott has always being a back up bowler in the test format and with the arrival of Rabada on the scene he was then only a back up of the back up.

Since, his career debut in which he took 10 wickets on debut against Pakistan in 2013, he only has played 11 test in the last 4 year. Every time he was given an opportunity he took it with both hands and delivered. More recently with Morne Morkel’s injury, Abbott finds himself up in the pecking order and now even a regular starter as Dale Steyn picked up his shoulder niggle but what happens when one of the greatest quicks to play the game is healthy again? Rabada and Philander are guaranteed a starting place in the test team and not because of their color but merit. Proteas tend to adopt the 3 quicks and one spinner policy and with Keshav Maharaj proving his talent and ability on the big stage, it will be hard to see SA go in with 4 quicks unless they playing at Centurion or Perth.

Another factor to consider is Abbott has no IPL contract and by choosing the Kolpak* route, he won’t be eligible for the highest paying 8 weeks of any cricketers career in India.

Abbott has a fairly lucrative contract at home (in terms of South African cricketers salary at home) and without endorsements, he will likely make the same money in a year as he will in England (He stands to make 100,000 pounds per season with Hampshire). Hence, contrary to popular belief, he is not moving for the money but rather a lack of certainty on his international career. He is playing out of his socks, he cannot produce better performances and why watch the pinnacle of your career on the sidelines?

For me, Cricket South Africa lost this player at the Auckland semi final. After AB DeVilliers, he should have being the 2nd man picked for that match but rather political inference by Lorgat and the South African board kept our best bowler out of that critical fixture. Philander was then new to ODI, coming off an injury and had a very average tournament to the point.

There are talks in the cricketing circles back home that Abbott was not transparent with his employer. He had signed this deal 5 months ago and he should have given another player the opportunity. I totally do not agree with such. Think about yourself as an employee, you sign a lucrative offer 5 months ago, then you get a promotion in your current job, why would you forego the income and experience to give someone else an opportunity. Yes, playing for your country is the absolute pinnacle of ones career but do you realistically expect Abott to sit out the series out against Australia in Australia and SL at home. Of course not!!! I would do the same.

It was a very difficult decision for him and you can see from the emotions in his press conference. I do believe he made the right decision for him and I wish you all the luck in the UK.

Rillee Rossouw

His situation is totally different. Cricket SA have backed him from the start and even when he got 5 ducks in a row. As a batsman so he has longevity in his career and at 27, I do think he will return to Proteas in a few years time.

Recently, he has done well in the ODI format so I’m a little surprised he went the Kolpak route with the Champions Trophy in 6 months and the cricket world cup in 2019. County cricket will only assist his prospects of playing test cricket in the future. He surely helped the liked of Faf DuPlesis, Neil McKenzie and Alverio Peterson to name a few.

However, the manner in which Rillee handled the saga has the South African cricket board fuming, especially the coach. An email was sent to Russell Domingo to inform him of the decision and to make matters worse, Rillee spelt the coach’s name incorrectly. It’s two double “l” bud. A lot can change in the years to come but hard to see Mr Domingo pick him if he is still the coach when Rillee returns from Kolpak.

In concluding, the new Brexit laws will  render the Kolpak agreement void in the future, hence there has been a huge push for a lot of South African players weighing out their options to play in the U.K. Many others are considering this path including Vilas, Wiese, Piedt and we also recently lost Simon Harmer.

*Kolpak explained:

– As the U.K. currently falls part of the EU, this agreement allows players from countries that have a free trade agreement with the EU to play cricket in the U.K. In 2000, ACP (African Caribbean Pacific States) signed a free trade agreement with 12 EU states which makes them eligible for the Kolpak arrangement.

– It allows a county team to employ a cricketer from South Africa, Zimbabwe and a few of the Caribbean nations. These players essentially count as “local” players and do not count against their 1 overseas player limit.

– To obtain a Kolpak agreement, the cricketer has to have played international cricket within the last 12 months or in possession of an EU passport

– You cannot represent you country of birth during the duration of a Kolpak agreement and a lot of counties don’t allow players to contract with any Indian IPL teams, however, this is more from a scheduling perspective.

– After 7 seasons of playing as a Kolpak player you are eligible to play for England

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