On a day where the Proteas should have been celebrating their sterling victory over Sri Lanka, Cricket South Africa (CSA) instead announced that Proteas bowler Kyle Abbott and batsman Rilee Rossouw would be leaving the team to play for an English side.
CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat announced in a press briefing on Thursday that Abbott’s contract had already been terminated, while the process had already begun to terminate Rossouw’s. Lorgat said that Abbott’s decision to leave had been unexpected.
Both Abbott and Rossouw have signed Kolpak contracts with English team Hampshire Cricket.
A Kolpak contract is essentially an agreement that allows people from certain countries such as South Africa to play in European Union nations. It is named for Maroš Kolpak, a Slovak handball player who won the right to play in a German division after quotas restricting non-domestic nationals were overturned by the European Court of Justice. Prior to the 2003 ruling the English Cricket Board restricted the number of non-EU citizens allowed in a county cricket team to one.
“It did come as a surprise to me,” Lorgat said, pointing out that things might have turned out differently if been different if they had learned of Abbot’s intentions earlier. “We could have engaged in some conversation with Kyle to see if we could’ve helped him in his decision. But I had no part in it, so I feel a little bit disappointed.”
Abbott has signed a four-year contract with Hampshire, and consequently can no longer play for a South African side. The bowler made his announcement just before Lorgat spoke on Thursday, reading from a press statement. The cricketer said that he made the decision because it ensured he was professionally secured for the next four years.
Although Abbott said that he remained committed to South Africa, Lorgat emphasised that both Abbott and Rossouw have given up their right to play for South Africa.
“He’s [Abbott] got to look after his future but at the same time I don’t think he wants to give up the right to play for South Africa, but that’s what he’s done and as a consequence we have terminated his contract,” Lorgat said.
Lorgat said that over the past few days Cricket South Africa had worked with Abbott to work on a “mutual separation”.
He said that although it was yet finalised, the cricket organisation would be doing the same with Rilee Rossouw, who signed a three-year contract with Hampshire.
In his own statement, Rossouw said he was moving to England so that he and his family could have “long term career security”.
A clearly annoyed Lorgat expressed regret at the investment made in Rossouw’s career when he was leaving the Proteas.
“We invest huge sums of money in every individual and if you take Riley, by way of example the last I don’t know how many months, Dr Moosajee, we’ve been treating his injuries, we’ve been investing in him and sadly there’s no return for us in the years to come,” Lorgat said. “We will be terminating his contract as well.”
The focus for CSA will now be to find fresh talent. Proteas coach Russell Domingo raised eyebrows when he said he had not spoken to Rossouw since the Proteas tour in Australia in November 2015. Domingo confirmed that Duanne Olivier would replace Abbott and Wayne Parnell would remain in the squad, while Lorgat committed to investing in future South African cricketers.
“Instead of crying over that spilt milk, we will invest in future South Africans that want to avail themselves to play for the Proteas under the guidance currently of Russell Domingo, and that’s where I would want to focus my energies,” Lorgat said.
Lorgat said that the cricket committee had met and that recommendation would be made to the board on a policy concerning how Kolpak contracts should be handled. He stressed that places in the squad are limited and must be occupied by cricketers who are committed to playing for South Africa.