Kyle Abbott fully endorses CSA plan for 15-team domestic system

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Kyle Abbott bowls during a Titans training session (Titans Cricket)
Kyle Abbott bowls during a Titans training session (Titans Cricket)
  • Kyle Abbott has endorsed Cricket South Africa's plan to revert to a 15-team domestic system from next season.
  • The 33-year-old seamer, back in domestic cricket following a four-year Kolpak hiatus, says the structure mirrors the English County Championship, which he believes is the strongest in the world.
  • Abbott also hopes the abolishment of Kolpak contracts will help CSA keep more players in the country.

Kyle Abbott has given Cricket South Africa's (CSA) plan to dissolve the franchise system and revert to a 15-team, provincial-based domestic structure the thumbs-up.

The 33-year-old seamer, who earlier this week signed a short-term deal with the Titans, will return to the domestic first-class for the first time in four years after signing a Kolpak agreement with English county Hampshire in 2017.

Abbott's status as a Kolpak player - along with various other countrymen - has been revoked after the UK formally left the European Union last month though he remains an overseas player for the county.

And it's that vast experience of cricket in England that renders him an appropriate commentator on CSA's plans, especially since the mooted new structure mirrors England's County Championship.

South Africa's first-class system will see teams split into two divisions of 8 and 7 teams, with a promotion and relegation mechanism in place.

"I believe it's absolutely (a good move)," Abbott said from Potchefstroom on Thursday, where he's preparing for the Titans' opening One-day Cup match against the Dolphins on Saturday.

The series is being played there in a biologically secure environment.

"I've said for ages that the first-class system in the UK has to be the strongest, if not the strongest in the world. The number of teams competing every week for something can only strengthen cricket. 

"In division one, four or five teams are competing for the trophy while the rest are engaged in avoiding relegation. It's the same in division two, where the top teams are trying to win promotion. At any given stage, you might only have two or three teams who are really out of it and not playing for much," he added.

It's that type of continued interest for teams as well as a premium on results that could see South Africa's system flourishing too.

"To have that strength and competitiveness in first-class cricket is excellent," said Abbott.   

"It's been a long time coming for CSA to do something like this and put more value on results.

"In a normal season here, once you get a few rained-out games and then maybe a draw, you are out of it. Now those remaining games are going to be huge because no-one wants to get relegated.

"It's a terrible feeling. I've been on the brink of it, in 2017. It was down to the last hour of the last day of 14 first-class games and it's a horrible feeling.

"In South Africa, it's long overdue considering the amount of facilities we have from Buffalo Park to Potchefstroom, places that can host good first-class cricket."

While the new structure will only allow for 205 contracts across the board, more teams will conversely grant more semi-professional players an opportunity to play at a level just below international cricket.

The death of the Kolpak ruling will also help in that regard.

"With Kolpak gone it has closed the door for a lot of guys. That can only be good for South African cricket to keep the players here. The more experience and less watered down the system the better," said Abbott.

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