After just 10 Test matches Duanne Olivier took up a Kolpak contract with Yorkshire earlier this year, effectively ending his Proteas career. But, will South Africa miss the seamer?
To qualify to become a Kolpak player, a cricketer needs to have attained an international level of quality, so the loss of any player in this fashion will have some impact on South African cricket.
There is absolutely no way to predict how Olivier might have done in the series against England. His career provided only a brief glimpse into what he can do and, despite being the man of the series against Pakistan, he got through relatively little work for a modern fast bowler. Only once in his time as a Test bowler was he asked to bowl more than 20 overs in an innings.
The sample size may be a little too small to judge Olivier accurately, but Cricket South Africa was apparently keen on offering him a two-year contract – so he is likely to have featured if he was available at least as a squad member.
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Whether he is missed will be determined not by what he might potentially have done but by what the Proteas quicks who are available can do.
The four most prominent South African quicks might have conspired to keep Olivier out of the Test XI, but three of them have had injury troubles for some time. Anrich Nortje looked off the pace when he returned from injury in India and Lungi Ngidi has played in just five Tests since making his debut in 2018. Vernon Philander may need more careful managing to ensure the veteran seamer gets through the series, which all points to the continued reliance on Kagiso Rabada to be both workhorse and gamebreaker.
From what we have seen from them so far, if Ngidi and Nortje can stay fit and find their best form, the Proteas will have an attack that would be the envy of most international sides.
The Proteas have no reason to doubt the quality of their four best seamers, but the depth of fast-bowling stocks beyond the elite is questionable.
If injury strikes any of the three specialist fast bowlers among their ranks, the Proteas are likely to call on Lutho Sipamla or perhaps the Cobras’ Dane Paterson, if the Warriors quick is deemed to raw for the Test arena. Sipamla appeared to be winning over former coach Ottis Gibson and has made a solid start to the four-day franchise season.
There are other talents on the horizon, but throwing the likes of Eathan Bosch or teenaged Knights paceman Gerald Coetzee to the Three Lions could do more harm than good. Another hot fast-bowling prospect, Michael Cohen, appears as though he may be lost to South African cricket.
A spate of injuries might make the Proteas long to be able to call on Olivier, but if the quicks stay fit SA cricket fans might not even notice he is gone.
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