Too few Tests to keep Duanne here?

2019-02-27 12:30
Duanne Olivier
Duanne Olivier (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Duanne Olivier likes a lot of bowling.

He said as much as he went to some lengths on social media to explain his tumultuous decision this week to sacrifice a booming Proteas Test career, aged 26, to sign a three-year Kolpak deal with Yorkshire in county cricket.

READ: KP weighs in on shock Olivier Kolpak deal

He also reminded that he is well aware of the fairly widespread theory, rightly or wrongly, that he should be pigeon-holed primarily as a Test rather than white-ball international player ... something that would have dramatically slashed his activity for the South African national team if gradually proved a valid phenomenon in selection, of course.

In this increasing age of free agency by superstar cricketers worldwide, many of whom are willing to cut short their Test careers to a pronounced degree as all manner of counter-attractions jump out at them, the Headingley money will certainly have “talked” to Groblersdal-born Olivier.

It is already being reported that he stands to earn some three times - in significantly stronger pounds - what he would have done in rands had he stayed in the Proteas fold for roughly the corresponding period of this deal.

To any professional person, sporting or otherwise, that sounds like an irresistibly tempting job, a means to enormous security in uncertain economic times for many.

Cricketers don’t ply their trade forever and fast bowlers are at a greater risk than any of breakdown, too, given the peculiar physical demands of their specialist task.

These observations are not intended to sound too overtly like a justification for the big call Olivier has made - if you are at very least “disappointed” by it, be my guest - but at the same time they are near to beyond dispute.

Yet there may be another reason, possibly a more influential one than some have considered, for one of the sensations of the Test landscape in recent weeks quitting while he is so spectacularly on top (reminder: 48 wickets from 10 Tests, 2017-19, average 19.25).

It is that the Proteas, without an enormous amount of associated dissent (a sign all of its own?) are gradually headed more and more into the margins, whether involuntarily or not, when it comes to volume of five-day activity by them.

In coming to his almost certainly much-agonised decision, Olivier is quite likely to have looked at what’s looming roster-wise on the short- to medium-term radar for South Africa and just wondered how many Tests he would actually be guaranteed to start in.

Think about it: the Proteas’ next scheduled engagement on the ICC’s Future Tour Programme is a three-Test series in India much later this year.

If the pitches are going to be even a little like the sort of dustbowls they were asked to operate on during the ill-fated (3-0 defeat) last series there in 2015/16, then the maximum requirement may well be two seamers in the XI, with two frontline spinners and perhaps a couple of tweaking part-timers doing the great bulk of the donkeywork.

Olivier’s back-of-a-length main strength (though he is just a little under-rated for pitching it up, mind) hardly jumping out as a prime asset to the cause in India: Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn, even at this long range, appear more obvious selections for quite probably limited pace duty - or certainly until reverse swing becomes a late-game factor at times.

READ: Olivier to earn up to R2.7m per season in England

So his next real crack in the format might well have come when the Proteas entertain oldest foes England as main attraction of the 2019/20 home summer.

Er, correction: ONLY attraction of the season ... at least when it comes to Test matches, as things stand on the calendar.

Bear in mind also that the South African pipeline in fast-bowler development, either raw or more seasoned, still pumps reassuringly furiously. There will always have to be scope for rotation; shuffling of resources.

If other series aren’t added, the Proteas will play just the four Tests against the English, making it one of their skinniest home summers in the format (Australia are due to visit for white-ball purposes) of the post-isolation era.

READ: Would SA's Kolpak XI beat the Proteas?

Beyond that, South Africa - supposedly among the “big four” global powers, remember - are down to play no series of more than three-Test duration until the completion of the current FTP in 2023, and several of a dubious mere two.

There is every likelihood you will see all of England, India and Australia play more Tests up to that year ... which would only really extend a hallmark already evident since the Proteas’ last series against England, away in 2017.

During the period subsequently, England have played a further 23 Tests, India 20 and the Baggy Greens 19: the Proteas bring up the rear with 17.

In fairness to Cricket South Africa, they will know all too well that white-ball cricket, broadly speaking, best brings in the boodle, and we’ll see plenty of those two forms of the game from the national side in the next few months and years, believe me.

That’s no special comfort to a guy like Duanne Olivier.

Oops, would have been no special comfort ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


Read more on:    proteas  |  duanne olivier  |  cricket


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