The SA public need to change their mindset about players leaving their country to become Kolpak players.
I wrote this column for the latest edition of SA Cricket magazine in December, and now, with the respective departures of Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw to Hampshire, the debate has intensified.
When someone packs their bags to go and find work abroad, a lot of the South African public are very quick to disapprove and feel betrayed.
What people need to understand is that sport is a profession, and if a better job presents itself somewhere else, people must take it.
When I undertook a Kolpak agreement in 2005, I, along with the other SA Kolpak players, were banned from playing domestic cricket in South Africa for the whole season, despite being 100% available. I had every intention of keeping the domestic system in SA strong, and as a professional, I would have liked to have played all-year round.
So instead of CSA figuring out ways to work with us, there was more of a fear of ‘how do we stop these guys’.
There’s always an initial knee-jerk reaction. When I made it public that I was moving to Australia earlier in the year, the reaction from CSA was ‘let’s remove him as host of the CSA awards in the fear of a social media backlash’. Why should there be a backlash? I’m going for work. If it so happens that my family manages to settle there then fantastic, because my family comes first.
Claude Henderson was left with a difficult decision to make during his stint with Leicestershire in 2007. He was asked to come back to South Africa and play for the Proteas and be paid on a match-to-match basis. Does he respect his three-year contract with his County side and earn the British pound, or go back to SA and potentially get dropped? How do you justify that logic to your family who depend on you?
Having said that, Henderson is now in the CSA setup as a spin-bowling coach, and there’s no reason why Rossouw can’t come back and play for the Proteas when he’s 30 and be the ‘Mike Hussey’ of SA cricket, should he be welcomed back into the family. Faf du Plessis, before the rules were changed, played as a Kolpak player for Lancashire in 2008. He came back a much better player for it. Paul Harris was a Kolpak player for Warwickshire and returned as an international player.
It’s no-one’s fault. CSA can’t just dish out contracts. But the player can’t be blamed for making these decisions either. Colin Ingram now has a family with a small child to look after, as does Rossouw. He’s thinking of his family when he chooses to earn the pound over the weak South African rand.
Stiaan van Zyl has now signed a three-year Kolpak agreement with Sussex. He doesn’t see a way into the Proteas side at the moment, so he’s decided to explore his options.
It’s the same on a coaching level. Pierre de Bruyn left his post at Tuks to be assistant coach at Leicestershire, and within a year he became the head coach. At the time, he couldn’t see a way into the domestic structure in SA. Imagine the things he’s now been able to learn in England, coaching against international players and coaches.
CSA need to work with their coaches in this regard. Domestic coaches should be paid by CSA so that they have more authority within the structures to keep them in the system. If, hypothetically, Mark Boucher was to lose his job with the Titans, instead of throwing him in the wilderness, keep him in the structures and develop his skills.
Cricket is a global game. We can’t ‘fight a good fight’ because we are a proud nation. People want to earn a good living and enhance their CVs and get fresh perspectives, just like any other profession.
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