Duanne Olivier’s decision to pursue a career in England via a Kolpak contract with Yorkshire is a huge loss for South African cricket, but admittedly a sign of the times, writes Jonhenry Wilson.
Public and team sentiment is low in the wake of last week’s heavy two-nil Test series defeat to Sri Lanka, who were tipped to cop a whitewash less than two weeks ago.
Presumption and prediction backfired, but was somewhat softened by Olivier’s individual success amid the collective’s failure.
Earlier this week, he was the subject of top 20 breakthrough into the International Cricket Council’s rankings for Test bowlers. Two days later, he’s effectively the property of Yorkshire. Timing is cruel, but opportunism prevalent.
‘If one looks at the bigger picture, this is not good news for the global game either, that a player who has just broken into the top 20 on the ICC Test match bowling rankings for the first time should opt effectively to bring down the curtain on his international career in favour of playing only in domestic leagues,’ said Cricket South Africa chief executive officer Thabang Moroe.
Kyle Abbott, too, ended a burgeoning Test career against Sri Lanka. All of five years older and a mere one Test cap richer than Olivier, Abbott – and January 2017’s decision to depart the Proteas – was ostensibly motivated by age and inferior positioning in the pecking order.
Two years later, Morne Morkel has retired, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn are 33 and 35 years old respectively. Opportunity didn’t genuinely knock for Abbott at the time. It certainly did for Olivier this year.
Olivier’s good form has been met with bad timing for South Africa. Yorkshire, like Hampshire did with Abbott, have been commendably opportunistic. If they didn’t, Derbyshire or another county would have approached him. Money and status talk. Olivier will earn more – and be one of the first names on the team sheet with Yorkshire rather than the subject of first-choice XI debate with the Proteas.
With Olivier leaving, AB de Villiers joining Middlesex and Colin Ingram denying interest in a Proteas return, these are offensive times for head coach Ottis Gibson, captain Faf du Plessis and company.
The focus that should be dedicated to who will fill the voids, hopefully, won’t have to spent on convincing others not to leave.
Photo: Isuru Sameera Peiris | Gallo Images