That classic ending to one of the Hollywood’s most iconic movies is filled with bitter irony for South African cricket fans confused by the sudden loss of in-form paceman Duanne Olivier, writes SIMON LEWIS.
It’s been a traumatic 12 months for South African cricket fans, from the heights of Australia’s despair at Newlands, to losing AB de Villiers, losing to Sri Lanka (home and away) … and now the loss of Duanne Olivier.
In the classic movie Gone With the Wind, Hollywood legend Clarke Gable’s last line is: ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’
Most Proteas fans probably believe that to be Olivier’s attitude as he sets off into an English sunset.
Vivien Leigh’s response to the departure of Gable a few moments later is to say to herself: ‘I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.’
No doubt that’s how many Proteas fans felt about AB de Villiers and now Duanne Olivier. Fans are distraught, gnashing their teeth, pulling out their hair … and yet they are also plotting how to win back the object of their affection. We hate them, yet we love them.
Oh, why did they leave!?
I interviewed Olivier at Newlands at the start of October when he was on the outskirts of everything; possibly not certain he would be picked up for the MSL and probably not certain he would be able to muscle into the Proteas team. Fast forward a few months, and he was the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the 4-Day Franchise Series (having played fewer games than the lads above him), the leading wicket-taker in the MSL, the leading wicket-taker in the Test series against Pakistan, and the fourth-highest wicket-taker in the Test series against Sri Lanka.
What a difference five months makes.
Despite all of those achievements, the first name on the lips of almost everyone I have spoken to (or read online), when it comes to who should drop out of the Proteas’ bowling attack, was ‘Duanne Olivier’. That must sting, and it must also be very unsettling.
Olivier is a sitting duck. The moment he fails to take more than one wicket in a Test, my feeling is that the selectors will breathe a sigh of relief and drop him/rest him to make it easier to select a four-man bowling attack.
What a lovely problem it should be for the selectors. Competition for bowling places is sky-high, as is competition for batting spots … that should be fertile ground for building the most competitive team in the world. Yet they lose to a low-ranked, weakened, rebuilt Sri Lanka – home and away. Sadly, the spirit of Darwin is not being respected and established players are being given long passage to ride out poor form.
CSA offered Olivier a two-year contract, probably for very good money. But regardless of the money, if Olivier isn’t playing for the Proteas, it could mean he would possibly end up spending those two years only being required to play franchise cricket.
Surely a greedy man would grab that with both hands?
In the next two years, Olivier is going to be hitting his prime as a paceman. With Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Anrich Nortje, Lutho Sipamla, Dane Paterson, Beuran Hendricks, Wiaan Mulder, Andile Phehlukwayo and Eathan Bosch (among others, and forgetting the spin bowlers) all jostling for places in the Proteas bowling line-up – and Dale Steyn eyeing another two years in Tests – can you blame Olivier for going Kolpak?
Even though Olivier has been performing like a Marvel hero, his place in the side is far from secure. What happens when his form dips for a match, or he picks up an injury? He will be Gone Like the Wind, and he knows that. He will have money in the bank, but no game time.
Say what you want about players being greedy, as supreme athletes they crave the chance to prove themselves and be out there taking the heat, doing what they do best.
Perhaps the selectors are constrained by their previous decisions because they may have already negotiated deals with some players to ensure them game time in exchange for their ‘loyalty’. This would explain the reluctance to drop or rest players in poor form.
Players are also commodities, and other leagues around the globe are greedy to poach top talent for short-term gains: has this allowed certain players to leverage loyalty over form?
If the Proteas selectors don’t wear their Darwinian hats when choosing teams, then more players are going to lose faith in the system. When that happens, signing on the Kolpak line will make a whole lot more sense.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images