Even as South Africa try to lift their morale in the course of the one day internationals series with Sri Lanka, there is undoubtedly a pall of gloom hanging around the still shocking announcement of Duanne Olivier going the Kolpak way. But it was looming on the horizon as the Brexit deadline drew closer.
For years, South Africa have had to deal intermittently with the problem of their national players abruptly shutting shop by signing Kolpak deals that effectively made them available for English county circuit but no longer available to represent South Africa. At the height of their success, just as they were realizing their potential in South Africa’s greens, it seemed South Africa’s promise has been snuffed out right in front of them. Repeated instances however did not prod Cricket South Africa to check the exodus.
The decision by Duanne Olivier, just as he was hitting his strides in Test whites and becoming a stronger candidate to make the berth for the ICC Cricket World Cup in June in England, to announce his departure from the South African cricket team, having signed the Kolpak contract continues to be a major talking point, a shock South Africa still seem to be trying to get over.
The fact that it has perhaps hit harder than it even did when Kyle Abbott was the last prominent South African cricketer to quit at the height of his success in national colours is telling of just how much of an impact Duanne Olivier has had in recent months. It is, also, evident of the fact that South Africa, despite a brave façade, are still very much in transition, not quite recovering from the larger-than-life losses of the retirement of Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers last year.
However, South Africa knew that not only was the Kolpak contract a perennial worry lurking in the shadows but also, that the Brexit decision arrived at by a referendum in Great Britain two years back was going to make for a greater push for cricketers to sign on the dotted line before the deadline. With the European nation yet to arrive at a Brexit deal, the idea of a no-deal Brexit is causing consternation not only within commercial establishments dependent on import-export barters and partnerships but also, cricket as a sport. With potentially unforeseeable changes on the anvil, there are perhaps more revelations in the offing but not quite on the level as that of Olivier’s that could be on the cards as the race to the Brexit deadline now gathers speed.
The Kolpak contracts have become a perennial problem for Cricket South Africa from the standpoint that cricketers not only earn a greater remuneration as a result of the rand to pound conversion rate but also, have a sense of security, particularly after Cricket South Africa were forced to follow the country’s sports laws that suggest heavy penalties including non-hosting of global events if not compliant with the mandatory inclusion of non-white players. With cricket also now subjected to the quota system, the uncertainty factor in the air has been more prominent leading to an exodus of players virtually en masse which has greatly dented South Africa’s potential to not only stay competitive but also, become a powerhouse looking for its first World Cup trophy.
With Brexit now throwing another spanner in the works, cricketers harbouring uncertainty over their future and doubts about their place in the national team will have already been scouted and scooped up in a hurry. It is a now a longstanding problem that Cricket South Africa have failed to check address in the past and indeed may now look helpless in the immediate future and an uncertain of their place going into the ICC Cricket World Cup.