Proteas need players to fill the voids left behind due to Kolpak deals
JOHANNESBURG – As the Proteas attempt to unpack the reasons behind the beatdown handed out to them by India in three Tests over the last month, the spectre of Kolpak absentees, and the hole that has left in South African cricket started to hit home.
In the last 18 months, AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla have all quit the Test format. All four are still available to play cricket, though in the case of three, only in the Mzansi Super League. None of their expertise and experience is available at domestic first class level and so a void has been created that is almost impossible to fill.
Over and above that however, it’s absence of players Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell, Heino Kuhn, Simon Harmer, Duanne Olivier and Hardus Viljoen from the domestic first class circuit that is also inhibiting the development of young players.
Any youngster trying to ‘sponge off’ an older, more experienced player, currently has only a handful of options available to them in the Four-Day Franchise competition, which supposedly is where Test cricketers from this country are supposed to emerge. The number that have played Test cricket is even smaller.
“What this (series defeat to India) has unveiled, is that our structures are not where they need to be,” said Faf du Plessis, following South Africa’s innings and 202-run loss to India in the third Test in Ranchi yesterday. “The gap between domestic cricket and international cricket needs to be things need to be put in place to address that a little better.”
One area Du Plessis lamented was the impact the absence of Kolpak contracted players was having on South African cricket in general and the Proteas specifically.
“It’s sad for South African cricket not to have the option of their best players. Simon Harmer has had an unbelievable season and it would be great to go, ‘he’s done well overseas lets bring him on tour’,” Du Plessis said of the off-spinner who had an outstanding season for Essex, helping the county to the Division One championship. Harmer picked up 83 wickets in 14 matches in the English season.
Others like Abbott - who finished second behind Harmer in the wicket taking charts with 71 - Olivier and Parnell are not available for selection domestically, because Cricket SA have left it to the provincial unions to pick up the tab for the players’ salaries - and many provinces in South Africa are cash-strapped.
Du Plessis is left hoping that once ‘Brexit’ occurs in the UK, there would be fewer opportunities to gain Kolpak contracts. The England Cricket Board stated earlier this year that in such a circumstance, Kolpak contracts would likely cease by 2020.
“So maybe post Brexit, guys will still play there but they can still be picked. That’s where we need to get to because at the moment we don’t get the option of all the best players.
You look at someone like Hashim, who won’t be playing domestically, so you lose all of that experience, which would help the young guys so much.”@shockerhess