Kyle Abbott is considering forsaking his Proteas career to join Hampshire on a three-year Kolpak deal, according to reports in the British media.
George Dobell, a senior writer with ESPNCricinfo, says Abbott has agreed the deal after long consideration, but details have not been released and Cricket South Africa are apparently not aware of any impending move. A spokesperson for CSA said no comment would be made while the second Test was in progress.
Dobell says the Hampshire management are worried that Abbott may change his mind now that he is making such an impact with the Proteas, and having been on the sidelines for so long, is now seemingly set in the line-up. Just last week, when talking about his recent success, he spoke of his pride of being a Proteas player, saying ‘It doesn’t get better than this; playing for your country’.
Abbott was expected to announce his international retirement later this month, as required for a Kolpak deal.
With Simon Harmer (Essex), Hardus Viljoen (Derbyshire) and Stiaan van Zyl (Sussex) , Abbott’s decision might be interpreted as part of a new wave of Kolpak registrations. The UK’s decision to vote to leave the European Community threatens to close the loophole that permits such signings in the coming months though it is anticipated that all deals made ahead of that time will be honoured. Hampshire are also understood to be in talks with Rilee Rossouw.
The temptation for a player like Abbott is not hard to understand. Aged 29 and only recently established in the South Africa side – he is currently playing his 11th Test – his decision to embrace a long-term county deal offers something approaching financial security. He can expect to earn more than £100,000 a year from the deal, with insurance cover built into the deal, and should still be free to play in some of the T20 leagues around the world.
Ryan McLaren was Hampshire’s top wicket-taker in the Championship last season with 32 at a cost of 38.81. He has subsequently left for Lancashire, so the addition of Abbott, a bowler of pace, skill and persistence, with recent international experience in all three formats of the game, should be quite an asset. He first played for the county in 2014, helping them win promotion by claiming 36 Championship wickets at a cost of 20.33.