It’s time we looked at one of the most polarising issues in cricket. I can’t ignore it any more. If you’re a South Africa supporter, an England supporter, or a Hampshire supporter in particular, your interest is going to be piqued and your stomach might well turn.
For starters let me make my own position on Kolpak players clear: I’m utterly conflicted. Like most England cricket fans I can see the benefits of South Africans moving to the UK – where would we have been without the likes Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott over the years? – but I do feel slightly uncomfortable when former internationals move to counties without any intention (or possibility) of playing for England.
Basically these cricketers come across as mercenaries who might block the progress of promising young English players. But on the flip side it’s good when they raise the standard of county cricket – as Hampshire’s latest recruit, Kyle Abbott, will surely do.
What’s more, I have some sympathy if the player in question isn’t being selected for South Africa (or hasn’t been selected as much as he should) because of his skin colour. A career as a professional cricketer can be very short; so it makes financial sense to cash in when one can. As a large number of Kolpak players have families to support, it seems unfair to criticise people for looking after their nearest and dearest.
Basically this whole issue is extremely complicated and there are no absolutes. One thing, however, is crystal clear. The kolpak ruling is no bloody good for South Africa at all. Take the example of Hampshire’s other recent signing, Rilee Rossouw (not to be confused with the Renee Russo).
When I first heard that Hants had signed a South African opener, I assumed he would be a squad fodder. I didn’t immediately recognise his name (sorry Rilee!) but a bit of digging soon put me right. Rossouw is actually a highly promising player. He’s 27 years old, has a first class average of 44 with eighteen hundreds, and he’s averaged 39 in over thirty ODIs. He’s also a more than handy T20 player.
It seems desperately unfortunate that players of this quality are leaving their homeland to move to the effing Rose Bowl. It’s also a tad depressing that Hampshire – who deserved to be relegated from division one of the championship last year but were reprieved due to Durham’s financial plight – can solve their problems by throwing money at foreign players.
The whole situation is as utterly disgusting as it is completely understandable. What on earth are we supposed to make of it all?
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