Johannesburg - With his commitment, or lack thereof being questioned at the moment, now might not be the time to say that Kyle Abbott may have done South African cricket a favour in the long term.
Abbott’s decision to take a Kolpak contract with English County side Hampshire has not only polarised the South African public, it has also facilitated his exit from the Proteas side, thanks to a terminated national contract with Cricket SA (CSA).
In the short term the pace bowler’s departure will be a big blow to what has essentially been a Proteas team reborn in the last six months.
The 29-year-old was the perfect foil to Vernon Philander’s nagging and erudite seam bowling and Kagiso Rabada’s precocious gifts as a fast bowler who can throttle as well as think batsmen out.
Abbott – a big fella who bowls as if by GPS and marries that with steep-ish bounce and movement off the deck – had the wonderful ability to hold up an end as well as be relied on to create a breakthrough for the Proteas.
The result was a bowling attack which had the infamously one-eyed Australian commentators purring about it being one of the best that had visited their shores.
Abbott’s international retirement will particularly hurt the Proteas in their next two Test series - against New Zealand on wickets that are improving with their pace attack and England on pitches which were almost made with him in mind.
But in the long run there is no point in keeping a player who is unsure of his future and would have one foot in South Africa and another in England mentally (isn’t there a rude Afrikaans word for that?) in a Proteas team trying to foster an all or nothing approach.
As Abbott said at his media conference on Thursday, at almost 30 he doesn’t see himself getting to 50 Tests or making it into the 2019 World Cup.
What that translates to is that he would have been in the way of someone they would have wanted to achieve both those things.
The biggest beneficiaries of his decision will be the national selectors, who have been depicted as brave in their decision-making during the Proteas’ resurgence but, upon closer inspection, may have been a little lucky with injuries to Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
Like Abbott said, he doesn’t want to be in a bib when he’s fit and healthy a year from now simply because Steyn and Morkel are fit.
The talented but inconsistent Wayne Parnell is another that stands to benefit from seeing the back of Abbott. A Rabada of sorts in terms of ability with less than half of that potential fulfilled, the man who once sported the weirdest “Parneytail” in cricket looks to be finally getting a grip on his talent.
More importantly, if he takes this opportunity, he would arguably balance the side more than Abbott did.
To those questioning Abbott’s commitment, a little growing up would be in order. If it all meant little to him, why would he choke up in his media conference?
And isn’t giving four years of loyalty to employers who didn’t always respond in kind commitment?
If you still don’t buy that, consider that when he wasn’t playing he still put in the kind of work behind the scenes that meant he was better than the broken down Steyn when he replaced him.
We should all be grateful that he didn’t sit on his hands when it came to being decisive about his call.