If Cricket South Africa were unaware that Duanne Olivier was intending to become a latest Kolpak player, then they are justified to feel aggrieved, writes GARY LEMKE.
However, if Olivier was transparent and told CSA that he was seriously considering English county side Yorkshire, then CSA have no right to feel let down, because they still selected him for the series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka when they could have blooded someone more committed to South Africa.
In essence the 26-year-old – 27 in May – has signed off from his international career with the Proteas, following 10 Tests which brought him 48 wickets and a Man of the Series award against Pakistan in February, with two ODIs against the same opponents where his overall return of 3-124 in 19 overs, at a rate of 6.52 per over, did little to inspire automatic selection for the World Cup starting in May.
So, there’s absolutely no problem with him going Kolpak. Recently married, he’ll earn pounds at Yorkshire for three years and has every right to choose a life in England, experience a different culture, possibly become a new father (which would mean that his child has a British passport). It really was a no-brainer decision in the bigger context.
The only surprising thing about Olivier accepting a Kolpak contract from English county side Yorkshire is that people are surprised. The player himself can’t be blamed for putting cash over country. After all, he’s a professional sportsman. Indeed, in recent times the likes of Rilee Rossouw, Kyle Abbott, David Wiese, Colin Ingram and Wayne Parnell have turned Kolpak while they still appeared to be on the national selectors’ radar.
Others, like Morne Morkel, did it at the end of their international days. Ironically, both Ottis Gibson and Dale Benkenstein, the current Proteas coach and batting coach respectively, also signed off their international careers by accepting Kolpak contracts, In reality, neither were likely to represent their countries again, while the current captain, Faf du Plessis, actually was a Kolpak player in 2007 for Lancashire before new rules were introduced in 2010, which allowed him to return to South Africa and make his ODI debut in 2011.
So, as can be seen, the Kolpak route is one well-trodden. Of course, the shambles that is Brexit might affect further comings and goings, but in the meantime it’s a free-flowing highway.
A cricketer’s earning career isn’t as long as that of a doctor or an accountant, so there is nothing wrong with Olivier cashing in, and one wishes him all the good fortune in the world. I learned many years ago that no-one is indispensable. In fact, it was explained to me this way: Put your hand in a bucket of water and then take it out and see how long the hole in the water lasts. That’s indispensable.
South Africa has a conveyer belt of young bowling talent who will fill Olivier’s boots, so it’s not a national tragedy.
But, did Olivier use Cricket SA to pad his CV and put himself in the Kolpak shop window? He was worth a lot less three months ago than he is now. He had only played five Tests heading into the summer and benefited from an extended Proteas spell in the absence of Lungi Ngidi.
According to the CSA statement, coach Gibson said: ‘We are naturally disappointed with Duanne’s decision to sign a Kolpak contract. He has been a key feature for us this summer and was without a doubt one of our standout performers. We held several meetings with him regarding his future with the Proteas throughout the summer and even offered him a two-year contract.’
The key is that Olivier and CSA were talking about a central contract. They also selected him for all five Tests against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, where his stocks rose with a series of impressive performances. Did Olivier tell CSA that he was in talks with Yorkshire prior to being selected?
Olivier used Instagram to justify his decision. ‘Before this Pakistan tour, I hadn’t played Test cricket since the Bangladesh tour in 2017, which led me to exploring other options in my career. I started considering going this route when I learned of the invaluable experience and opportunities it would open for me.’
Again, all fine, but … did Olivier inform CSA of his plans before selection against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and did he tell the coaching staff and teammates? If he did, then CSA shouldn’t feel aggrieved. Perhaps CSA can clarify for us? If he didn’t tell them, then Olivier basically used them to boost his stocks and his appeal.
It’s not as if Yorkshire called him at the end of the Test series against Sri Lanka a couple of weeks ago and offered him a three-year contract. Surely Olivier’s performances for the Proteas served only to negotiate a better package for him.
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/Backpagepix