Kolpak revisited: Why South Africa players are packing up and leaving for England

With Britain voting to leave the EU, Kolpak deal will not be possible once the break is implemented.

Written by Tushar Bhaduri | Updated: January 19, 2017 9:47:21 am

Fast bowler Kyle Abbott opted for a Kolpak deal and announced his retirement from international cricket midway through the Test series against Sri Lanka. (Reuters) Fast bowler Kyle Abbott opted for a Kolpak deal and announced his retirement from international cricket midway through the Test series against Sri Lanka. (Reuters)

What is Kolpak ruling?

It gets its name from a 2003 European Union ruling on the right of a Slovakian handball player to ply his trade in Germany. It allowed an opening for players from countries with trade agreements with the EU to bypass restrictions on overseas players in domestic European leagues.In cricketing context, these countries include South Africa, Zimbabwe and some Caribbean nations. As most of the West Indian islands and Zimbabwe are lurching from one cricketing crisis to another anyway, it is South Africa which is most affected by the prospect of its top players having the option of turning out for English counties as non-overseas players.

Why the sudden surge in counties signing Kolpak deals with South Africans (Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw to Hampshire, David Wiese to Sussex)?

With Britain voting to leave the EU, Kolpak deal will not be possible once the break is implemented. Hence, counties are in a rush to sign players before Brexit takes effect. They can get better players without having to field them as overseas players (each county is allowed to field one foreign player, two in the NatWest Blast).

What is in it for the players?

Financial security. South African domestic cricket pays significantly less than its English counterpart. The exchange rate between the South African rand and the British pound also makes Kolpak deals lucrative. Also, players who are unsure of their place in the South African XI are particularly vulnerable.

A Kolpak deal allows a player a steady income, high standard of living in a European country while playing under much less pressure than they would in their national colours. Players who feel they are coming towards the end of their careers may want to maximise their income before their playing days are over.

Abbott is on record saying a better financial life and ensuring a good future for his children were the motives for turning his back on the Proteas. South Africa, thus, loses players of quality from their international sides as well as domestic set-up.

Is AB de Villiers’ reluctance to play Tests a Kolpak off-shoot?

That remains unclear. However, there are fears that the South African super star is weighing his options right now. He has declared himself unavailable for the upcoming Test series in New Zealand and England while declaring that the 2019 World Cup is his big target. Cricket South Africa, already left reeling by the defection of the likes of Abbott and Rossouw, do not have much elbow room in negotiations as a peeved de Villiers may take matters into his own hand by taking international retirement and signing a Kolpak deal.

Is there any other reason for the South African exodus?

Cricket South Africa’s transformation targets, according to which a maximum of five white players can be picked in an XI on average, may also push some players to Kolpak deals.

“I had realised that my time with South Africa cricket was well and truly over. There was politics involved…I really don’t want to get into that. I don’t know what will happen if it (Cricket South Africa) becomes the next Zimbabwe… Politically, South Africa is in big trouble,” Roelof van der Merwe, former South Africa cricketer who now plays for the Netherlands.

What is the fine print in a Kolpak deal?

To sign a Kolpak deal, the player must have a valid work visa for four years in the UK or a specific number of caps in international cricket.He must give up his right to play for his country for the duration of the deal, and his English county would be his priority.

How has it affected cricket?

By 2008, there were more than 60 Kolpak cricketers in England. It caused debate and raised the argument that their presence was preventing the development of genuine English cricketers.

Can Kolpak players play for England?

Kolpak players over 18 have to play seven years for a county and gain British citizenship to play for England. Players like Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, on the other hand, played for England as their parents or grandparents were English.

For all the latest Sports News, download Indian Express App

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement