Image courtesy of: Zimbio
South Africa pace bowler Kyle Abbott and batsman Rilee Rossouw has brought their international careers to an end after signing Kolpak deals with Hampshire.
Abbott agreed on a four-year contract with the English county side, while Rossouw inked a three-year deal. As a result of this, neither of them will be eligible to represent the Proteas.
Abbott admitted that the decision to join Hampshire was one of the toughest he has had to make in his professional career, but added that he was excited about the future.
“It has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make but it is the right decision for me,” Abbott said after the second Test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town. “There have been a few evenings where I have gone to sleep wondering if I made the right decision and woken up in the morning knowing I have.
“The last few months [since I made the decision], it’s about playing with the weight off my shoulders. In the last few months, I have never felt far away from being dropped. I’ve now played thinking if I do, it doesn’t matter. I am really enjoying it. If I wasn’t committed to South African cricket, I would have done this a long time ago.
“February would be four years since my international debut. Ever since I played in South Africa, at every level, there has always been a quota system. I have never used it as an excuse and I won’t now. I need to pay bills, I need to buy groceries.”
The 29-year-old, who played for Hampshire in 2014, added: “I am delighted to be joining Hampshire for the 2017 season onwards. I have an extremely strong affection with the Club given my previous stints there and can’t wait to get the ball in my hand at the start of the season.
“I would also like to express my thanks to Cricket South Africa and the Warriors for their understanding during this process. Making the decision to commit my long term future to Hampshire was undoubtedly the most difficult one I have ever had to make and I leave with more than a little sadness knowing that I won’t represent the Proteas again.
“Representing my country was undoubtedly the biggest honour in my career and I am very thankful for the opportunity to have represented South Africa and the Proteas.”
South Africa Test captain Faf du Plessis was extremely disappointed with Abbott’s decision to trade his international career for a Kolpak deal, especially as he was just beginning to establish himself as a key member of the Proteas’ pace attack.
“That was not the way we wanted. It was something that we didn’t expect and it was out of our control. We did get together and spoke to Kyle and tried to change his mind,” Du Plessis said. “Kyle had already set up what he wanted to do. Then it was just about me making sure the boys were focused on the job at hand. The boys were brilliant. Even Kyle. He wanted to make sure everything was about the team. I’m a little bit upset that Kyle couldn’t get one or two wickets. I would have liked to see him do well in his last outing.
“I want him playing for South Africa. He is not going to be part of our team so if he is not going to be part of our team, it’s time to move on. I respect his decision but I don’t agree with it.
“Six months ago, I could have understood it more. Sitting here today, I don’t understand it as well. I am extremely surprised. I care so much about him that I want him to play for South Africa, I want him to do well and perform on the biggest stage on the world because I think he is an amazing cricketer and that’s the place to be. I am disappointed for those reasons.”
Having lost the services of two highly talented players, Du Plessis admitted that Cricket South Africa have to do something in order to stop this from becoming a common occurrence.
“It’s a red flag,” he said. “We have to address it. As the Proteas and as CSA, we need to make sure it doesn’t happen. It is always going to be a challenge. The foreign currency is something that will always be there. It’s too important and too valuable to say that whatever happens, happens and there will be players to fill the gap. That’s not good enough.
“Opportunity, money, transformation. There are a lot of factors guys will look at as their excuse or as their reason. What Kyle’s is, I am not sure. Every single reason is a concern. He is someone who has not been sure for a period of time. He wants security.”
Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Rossouw represented South Africa in 36 ODIs and 15 Twenty20 Internationals, but failed to feature in the longest format. Despite this, the 27-year-old conceded that penning a deal with Hampshire has provided him with the security he and his family need.
“Deciding to leave South Africa is something I have thought long and hard about and moving to England will give me and my family the long term career security that I believe is important at this stage of my life,” Rossouw said in a statement. “I have loved representing the Proteas and will watch from afar with great affection every time they take the field from now on but I am hugely dedicated to making Hampshire cricket successful on the field.
“I would like to express my thanks to Cricket South Africa for the opportunity to represent my country and also for the Knights for their continued support.”
Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat was gutted that Abbott and Rossouw had turned their backs on the national team and confirmed that they will no longer be able to represent the Proteas in any format.
“Regrettably we have no option but to severe our ties with both Abbott and Rossouw as they are no longer available for South Africa,” he said. “It is a disappointing day not just for South African cricket but also for international cricket as these players have given up their opportunity to be seen in action on the international circuit.
“From CSA’s perspective it is a loss as we invest immeasurable amounts which include premium time, finance, technical, high performance coaching followed by development tours and providing general player welfare over a long period of time.
“By way of example, Rilee has spent a lengthy period on the injury list while we spared no expense in providing him with the best medical support.
“Both Rilee and Kyle have been given opportunities over the past year to play at the highest level and were firmly in our plans for the future. We have encouraged Rilee and Kyle to reconsider their decisions but both have indicated that they wish to take up Kolpak contracts. Whilst this is a loss for South African cricket we can only wish them well with their overseas careers.”