Why we're allowed to be angry at Abbott

Lloyd Burnard
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town – The second Test between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Newlands last week was so one-sided that it soon became a side-show to the Kyle Abbott drama. 

On the night of day one, news broke that Abbott was heavily linked to Hampshire on a three to four year Kolpak deal that would ultimately end his Proteas career.

It was hard to believe at first, given that Abbott has finally bowled himself into South Africa’s best XI in all three formats.

Why would he leave now?

But, with each passing day, the inevitability of a truth that nobody wanted to acknowledge grew, and by the time Abbott addressed media at Newlands after the Test, nobody was surprised.

He was emotional and fought back tears, yet grew in confidence as the press conference progressed, throwing in the odd cocky chirp along the way.

"As my past suggests, I’m pretty good at taking an opportunity," he offered.

By then, Rilee Rossouw’s Kolpak deal was also confirmed, though it was obviously Abbott facing the music due to his presence at the ground.

Nobody at Cricket South Africa (CSA), it turns out, knew where Rossouw was.

While Abbott fronted up to the world and took questions, Rossouw informed CSA of his decision via a brief e-mail.

Naturally, the news prompted instant reaction on social media.

There were those labeling Abbott a traitor and there were those who blamed politics and CSA for South Africa losing two big players.

The responses were laced with emotion, few were open to criticism and most lacked context. 

Searching for somebody to blame for all of this is not as easy as it may seem. 

The obvious scapegoat is CSA. 

They are the ones who have let Abbott and Rossouw go. Should they have been paying them more? Should they have ensured that they had signed longer contracts? Should they have played them more? 

Abbott has been extremely unlucky on the international stage, but he will be the first to tell you that he was part of a uniquely talented era of South African fast bowlers. 

Steyn, Rabada, Philander and Morkel ... Abbott has no complaints about ever being behind any of these guys in the pecking order - last year's World Cup semi-final included. 

The fact is that, at 29, Abbott made a decision that will give him financial security for the latter part of his career and there is nobody that can argue with that. 

It is a decision that is his, and one that must be respected by the players around him and the cricketing community as a whole. 

But the decision is not the issue here. 

As good a bowler as Abbott is currently - and he is very, very good - South African cricket will move on without him. 

But where Abbott has hurt himself and, more importantly, the Proteas, is in the way he has gone about things. 

Abbott signed this Kolpak deal five months ago, yet Proteas management were only made aware of it at Newlands last week. 

Abbott had communicated with coach Russell Domingo around six months ago, informing him that a deal was on the table, and Domingo then attempted to convince Abbott to hold on for a while. 

The tour to Australia, the ICC Champions Trophy and a Test tour to England were all penciled in for the latter part of 2016 and first half of 2017. It was a big few months for South African cricket. 

Domingo left it at that, hoping that his words would convince Abbott to stick around. 

Looking back, that was extremely naive on the coach's part and Domingo should have seen the signs and urgently approached the powers that be at CSA. Perhaps then, they could have done something to keep their man. 

Instead, Abbott put pen to paper and didn't inform anybody at CSA. And that is proving difficult to forgive. 

He may have been out of the Test mix at the time, but Abbott was very much a part of the plans in the limited overs set-up and was in the running to be South Africa's new ball bowler at the Champions Trophy. 

Since the World Cup in 2015, Abbott has played 13 of South Africa's 29 ODIs. 

Every single ODI that the Proteas have played since the World Cup has had the Champions Trophy in mind. 

Abbott, without question, should have informed his employers of his Kolpak deal when he signed. 

He wasn't obligated to from a legal point of view, but if he was as committed to the national cause as he says he is, then he would have wanted management to be aware of his pending unavailability. 

If the Proteas had known that Abbott was not going to play in the Champions Trophy, then they would probably not have picked him in the ODI squad for last October's series against Australia. 

He played the last two ODIs in that series, putting in seriously impressive displays as it became difficult to imagine a South African XI without Abbott spearheading the attack.  

There would have been endless discussions and training sessions centred on the Champions Trophy and the role each player will be expected to fill, and there is no doubt that Abbott would have formed a big part of those discussions. 

Now, with less than six months to go, Domingo must find another new ball bowler for that tournament. 

The same could be applied to the Test side, where South Africa would have benefited more from playing a Wayne Parnell or Duanne Olivier in the first two Tests against Sri Lanka. A tour to England looms and Abbott will not be a part of it, so what would be the point of playing him against the struggling Sri Lankans? 

It is understandable that he wants to play as much international cricket for the Proteas as possible before he leaves, but in keeping his deal from management he has done nobody but himself any favours. 

If Rossouw signed his Kolpak deal before his man-of-the-series performance against Australia in October's ODIs, then the same can be said of him. 

CSA now has a massive fight on its hands. 

David Wiese is the latest linked to a Kolpak deal and there are likely to be more. 

The issue here is not the decision to leave. That is something that CSA are not in a position to stop at the moment, and the attraction to move abroad says more about the state of the country than it does the state of cricket in the country. 

If a player wants to give up a shot at international cricket for job security and money, then that is his decision and it is one that should be respected. 

But don't start pulling the wool over, and don't try and milk the international system for all its worth.

If you're going, then go, but is it really too much to ask for a bit of transparency along the way?  

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24

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