Cape Town – South African cricket legend Barry Richards has
backed the trend of players “looking after themselves”, as Cricket South Africa
battles to curb a mounting exodus of international-class talent to England.
Two mid-career players potentially on the cusp of becoming
regulars – some would argue overdue ones -- for the Proteas at both Test and
one-day international level, Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw, are reportedly
close to confirming long-term county deals that will preclude further
involvement for the national side.
As the scramble to hook up Kolpak-related deals hots up
ahead of the future uncertainties given Britain’s departure from the European
Union through Brexit, three other already-capped internationals, Simon Harmer,
Hardus Viljoen and Stiaan van Zyl, are among those who have already committed
to lucrative, secure overseas deals.
Richards, the only South African to crack Donald Bradman’s
much-trumpeted “Dream Team” of the 20th century and who played only one
Test series – the 4-0 thrashing of Australia in 1969/70 – before apartheid
intervened, effectively became one of the SA-born pioneers of professional
cricket and has long been an outspoken campaigner for players’ rights and
maximising of their money-earning potential.
The much-travelled batsman took to Facebook to say in
response to the latest, talent-drain developments: “The wheel has turned … over
many years players learnt loyalty is one-sided!
“Now time for players to look after themselves; the modern
world is now on players’ side.”
Nevertheless, there is pressure on CSA to find a solution to
the want-away trend, especially given that many of the players who have already
committed to fresh pastures or seemingly on the brink of doing so – the
29-year-old Abbott has a three- to four-year Hampshire deal lined up – would
have added depth to the national cause as certain incumbents get a little long
in the tooth.
The Proteas, for instance, have 33-year-old strike legend
Dale Steyn out injured after shoulder surgery and facing an uncertain future,
fellow-paceman Morne Morkel is 32, ace batsman Hashim Amla will play his 100th
Test at the Wanderers next week while pretty close to his 34th
birthday, Stephen Cook is already 34 and JP Duminy 32.
The clamour by a bunch of slightly younger, but already
blooded and at least reasonably proven players at international level to turn
their backs on the national squad threatens to leave a damaging void in talent
availability terms at a time when the Proteas are fighting gallantly to be a
resurgent force in all formats after a lean spell last year and just before it.
At the same time, it is not especially easy for CSA to curb
the outflow, given the lure of stronger currency abroad – a major problem
already in Springbok and domestic franchise rugby.
Haroon Lorgat, CSA’s CEO, has already been quoted as saying:
“We cannot restrain individuals from plying their trade … the world is a global
village with people very mobile.
“This mobility affects all professions and is not limited to
cricketers who ply their trade in English counties.”
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing