Morkel fears more will follow Olivier

01 March 2019

Fast-bowling legend says South Africa must be proactive to prevent players ditching international cricket for Kolpak deals

Former Test quick Morne Morkel has called on Cricket South Africa (CSA) to take action to prevent the drain of talented players away from his homeland.

Paceman Duanne Olivier this week followed the likes of Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott in choosing the security of a long-term deal in English county cricket instead of the chance to play internationally with the Proteas.

Having enjoyed a breakout summer that lifted him into the top-20 ranked Test bowlers in the world, Olivier's international career may well be over at the age of just 26 after he signed a three-year Kolpak deal with Yorkshire.

He will reportedly earn three times more in England than he would have if he'd stayed with the Proteas, with the strength of the British Pound compared to the South African Rand a major factor in the financial discrepancy.

The announcement of Olivier's exit was accompanied by a broadside from CSA, whose chief executive Thabang Moroe said the move was "not good news for the global game" and "extremely disappointing" given the right-armer had been offered a two-year Proteas contract "which would have given him financial security".

But Morkel harbours no ill feeling and says his former teammate has made a smart financial decision for his young family.

Saluting Proteas paceman Morne Morkel

And while the 86-Test veteran acknowledges the "tricky" and complex situation, he says CSA must be more proactive to keep the nation's best players in Proteas colours.

"They have to sit down and come up with plans because they're going to lose a lot of players in the near future and they need to protect against that," Morkel, who retired from international cricket last year and recently settled in Sydney, told cricket.com.au.

"Do you structure the contracting a little bit better? What security do you give the guys (in terms of) life after cricket? You talk about investing, but once a guy retires, they sort of drift away. I can name a number of players who they have invested a lot of money in, but you don't see them coaching, you don't see them involved with our academies.

"Give those guys a platform and say; 'we've invested in you for so many years, when you're thinking of settling down or moving on, this is where we see a role for you'.

"I think that communication is not great at the moment so that's something they can improve on.

"(When I was younger) I was settled in the team so for me, it was easier to put offers aside and focus on playing with South Africa.

"It's harder for those guys who are in and out of the team. If the communication channels aren't great and you're not sure where you fit in, that's where the biggest challenge comes in. Communication is the key in any business.

"It's never nice … it always paints a bad picture of cricket in South Africa. But that's unfortunately part of our DNA and the struggles we have in South Africa."

The murky domain of 'Kolpak' players, which is set to be flipped on its head in the post-Brexit world, currently means players from countries that have trade deals with the European Union can play county cricket without being considered a foreign player. This is advantageous to counties as they can field internationals without them contributing to their small allocation of foreign players, but the player in turn must give up the chance to play for his country.

And having been on the outer of the Proteas side for the majority of 2018 before his barnstorming home summer, casting uncertainty over his international future, Olivier opted for the safe option of a county deal.

Further complicating matters for white South Africans like Olivier, Rossouw and Abbott is the country's quota system, which requires an average of six non-white players per game to be picked by the Proteas.

Morkel himself signed a two-year Kolpak deal with Surrey last year, drawing the curtain on a stellar 12-year international career that yielded more than 500 wickets for the Proteas.

He says his major frustration with Olivier's exit is the timing of the move, coming as it has after he'd finally established himself at the highest level.

"It's just unfortunate because Duanne had really settled in and is finding his feet … he knows what Test cricket is about," he said.

"In terms of timing, it's not great.

"(But) I think that decision was made long before a couple of months ago. He weighed his options up and it was a family decision and you have to respect that.

"It's never nice to lose quality players, you always want to see them play for South Africa. But I understand it completely and I wish him all the best."


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South Africa Men

Morne Morkel

Duanne Olivier