Abbott’s departure raises questions.

THE departure of Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw from South African cricket has yet again cast serious doubt on the system that determines who dons the Protea cap.

The news that Zululand cricketing hero Abbott and teammate Rossouw had signed Kolpak deals with English county side Hampshire, was confirmed shortly after the second test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The news was received with mixed reactions, but it points to an underlying problem with the selection process – in a test career spanning nearly four years, Abbott played just 11 tests for South Africa.

At a time where he was only just starting to see decent time on the field, he announced the move.

But why has one of the country’s most talented and economical pacemen not seen more playtime over the years? And why would he even entertain a conversation with a county side if he can play for his country?

Abbott has in the past expressed the feeling that he constantly has to prove himself, and his current play can only be attributed to injuries to Morné Morkel and Dale Steyn, making him the automatic first pick.

But he has spent dozens of matches on the sidelines (in fact, he was not picked for 20 test matches between his debut and his last test), and the return of automatic picks or even the emergence of new talent, could mean Abbott will be warming the benches, only to be called when and if needed.

One of the more common reasons cited is the Proteas’ wealth of fast bowlers to choose from, who cannot expect to be picked for every test.

Every player has advantages and disadvantages – Abbott can get wickets on difficult surfaces while keeping some of the best batsmen in the world in check (having played in seven of South Africa’s last 13 tests and taken 26 wickets at a very economical rate of 22.03).

Mass exodus

This begs the question, will Abbott’s move become a historic turning point for Cricket South Africa (CSA), who will now have to contend with a possible mass exodus of South African talent to Britain, as well as manage their quota system effectively.

Rossouw’s move is already an example of this.

CSA’s chief executive Haroon Lorgat confirmed that owing to the announcements, they had terminated Abbott’s contract and were in the process of cutting Rossouw off – effectively ending their international careers.

Lorgat spoke of investment in players and not seeing a return for that, but others will argue the investment should not only be monetary, it should be in the careers of players who grew up dreaming to play for South Africa.

Yet both players mentioned ‘long-term career security’ as one of the main reasons they chose to sign with Hampshire.

While confirming a new policy would need to be decided on to deal with Kolpak contracts, Lorgat stressed that places in the national squad are limited and ‘must be occupied by cricketers who are committed to playing for South Africa’.

‘If I wasn’t committed, I would have done this a long time ago,’ an emotional Abbott said on Wednesday.

‘There have been a few evenings where I have gone to sleep wondering if I’ve made the right decisions, but I have always woken up knowing that I have.’


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Kyle Cowan

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