Cricket South Africa owe a great deal of thanks to the Brexiteers of the United Kingdom as it has led to the return of some top-class players just as the domestic game heads into a new-look, uncertain future.
Because Brexit engineered Britain’s exit from the European Union, all Kolpak deals fell away and South Africans playing county cricket in England could no longer do that unless it was on the basis of them being registered as overseas players, which would then allow them to play in – and for – South Africa.
And so the likes of Simon Harmer (Northerns), Kyle Abbott (Boland), Stiaan van Zyl (Boland), Duanne Olivier (Gauteng), Wayne Parnell (WP) and Hardus Viljoen (Boland) are all returning to the domestic game.
Coupled with Hashim Amla and Vernon Philander coming out of retirement to play for Western Province and Chris Morris signing a contract with Northerns, it means a raft of invaluable experience and quality is returning to provincial cricket, which can only be good.
Some of those players have only been able to secure a one-year contract though, because the teams were only allowed to give out eight two-year contracts out of their squad of 16.
In terms of these players’ availability for the Proteas, there is nothing technically stopping them from being called up. Although some of them, most notably fast bowler Olivier, left South Africa in awkward circumstances. As an organisation, Cricket South Africa had the right to feel snubbed in certain cases.
National coach Mark Boucher was asked recently specifically about Olivier’s chances of a Proteas recall and what he described would apply to all of the returning players.
“A lot of things need to happen. He needs to show form in our system, we can’t judge him on what he’s done in the past for South Africa or overseas,” Boucher said.
“Then we need to ask whether he fits into our culture, will he show good attitude and are the other guys happy to have him. If he can tick all those boxes then we would welcome him back.”