Today the rumour became reality. At a press conference today, it was announced the Protea fast bowler Kyle Abbott joins Hampshire from the start of next season on a Kolpak contract.
Kyle Abbott Joins Hampshire on Kolpak Contract
The news had already been leaked to the press at the start of the now completed Test match against Sri Lanka in Cape Town, but became official when Abbott faced the media in a post-match press conference to announce the news.
A visibly emotional Abbott told the media that the contract has been in process over the last year and was not a new development. Fellow Protea, batsman Rilee Roussouw took the opportunity to make a release of his own. He would be joining Abbott in Southampton and also giving up on his international career.
What Made Abbott Make this Decision?
The common thread in both players’ explanations was that they were looking to their futures and life after cricket. Abbott has only recently been a regular starter, filling in for the injured Dale Steyn. He made the statement at the press conference:
I don’t want to be 30 years old, sitting on the sidelines wearing a bib when the others come back from injury.
He was also went on to explain that playing at Hampshire for the next four years guaranteed his income and set him up to consider his life after cricket.
What Were Roussouw’s reasons?
We cannot do better other than quote Roussouw himself, in the statement he personally released:
“Deciding to leave South Africa is something I have thought long and hard about and moving to England will give me and my family the long-term career security that I believe is important at this stage of my life,” Rossouw said in a statement. “I have loved representing the Proteas and will watch from afar with great affection every time they take the field from now on, but I am hugely dedicated to making Hampshire cricket successful on the field.
“I would like to express my thanks to Cricket South Africa for the opportunity to represent my country and also for the Knights for their continued support.
“The move to England and Hampshire Cricket is one that I can’t wait to get underway. I have come close to playing county cricket a couple of times in the past and it is a challenge most cricketers want to take on at some stage in their careers and I am delighted it is at a county with as strong pedigree as Hampshire.”
Cricket South Africa’s Response
Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) response was swift and laced with more than a little disappointment, especially towards Roussouw. Both players contracts with CSA have been terminated with immediate effect. Their disappointment with Roussouw was two-fold. Firstly, CSA stuck by Roussouw after he scored four ducks in his first six ODI innings. They also stood by him over the last eighteen months when he was out of action with various injuries, with CSA ensuring he had the best available medical support. Neither will be considered for the 3rd Test against Sri Lanka, starting at The Wanderers in Johannesburg on 12 January.
The Quota Question
Abbott specifically denounced this in his press conference. He is currently being selected on merit and when Dale Steyn does return there is no chance of him being selected ahead of the young superstar Kagiso Rabada. Roussouw toured Australia with the Proteas in November. If a batsman was injured, he was the next man in. He was also a regular starter in the ODI team.
Both players are mature individuals and are entirely capable of making decisions about their futures. Abbott’s decision is the easiest to understand as he is always at risk of being left out. Aside from young Rabada, the bowlers he is competing against for a starting position are very close to his own age, so he isn’t really part of CSA’s succession planning.
Roussouw’s decision is the more disappointing one, given how much CSA have invested in him. They continued to support him through injury and poor form and there has been no return on that investment.
There are two burning questions that we are left with:
- Why do two nationally contracted players feel that their futures are not secure? CSA surely have a question to answer to on this.
- What about the quality of South African domestic cricket? If nationally contracted players like Abbott and Roussouw are not part of the Proteas at any given time, they would be playing in the domestic competitions. As they are quality players, they would be ensuring that the domestic competitions are of a high quality. Without players of their quality, the step up in quality between the domestic game and the international game becomes far greater.