Cricket South Africa officials are due to meet Kyle Abbott’s agent today to examine reports that the star paceman is planning a Kolpak move to Hampshire.
They were caught unawares by a report posted in England by ESPNCricinfo on Tuesday that he had agreed a three or four-year deal with the county, which would entail him giving up his Proteas position.
It is understood that negotiations began when Abbott was unsure about his position in the team and the opportunities that would be offered. Since the injury to Dale Steyn, Abbott has had an extended run int he side and responded with some outstanding performances. Just last week, he enthusiastically said: ‘It doesn’t get better than this, playing for your country’.
Hampshire officials have refused to comment on negotiations, but they are concerned that Abbott may yet pull out of the deal.
Former Proteas player Peter Kirsten, who became a fixture at Derbyshire for many years, urged Abbott to reconsider and delay moving to England for a while.
‘It would be very disruptive; both he and the team are in a good space at present,’ said Kirsten. ‘There are some [young] fast bowlers around, but few who could automatically slot in immediately and be known to be effective at the highest level, like Kyle is.
‘These things are totally up to the individual … is he able to feel his place is now properly guaranteed in the South African side, or not?’
Kirsten admitted that the money on offer would be a major factor.
‘There’s that old snag of an exchange rate of R16.80 or so to the pound, which will always be a factor for South African sportspeople. The money he’d be earning on an extended Hampshire deal would be guaranteed, fitness permitting. He could also still fit in some time playing Twenty20 leagues around the world, if he wished to. They’d snap him up; he could add to his income.
‘Then again, if he packed it in for the Proteas he’d be missing not just Test cricket but also tournaments like the Champions Trophy and more ICC events. I know he really wants to play for his country; it’s just not been assured. But things are always negotiable.’
The problem for Abbott is compounded by the UK’s decision to leave the European Community. The Kolpak agreement guarantees the free movement of ‘workers’; an agreement the UK is seeking to abandon.