Reprieve for ‘Kolpaks’ in SA cricket

Simon Harmer (Gallo Images)
Simon Harmer (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – South African players on Kolpak contracts in UK county cricket are safe again in the knowledge that domestic summer employment by franchises, supported financially by the national body, will still be available to them.

There had been reports a few months ago that Cricket South Africa – crucially, perhaps -- no longer wished to contribute to the wages of players not available to the national cause.

CSA wanted instead for the often cash-challenged, specific franchises involved to pay Kolpak players out of their own pockets; a serious snag considering that players in that category are generally very experienced and at the higher end of the contracting scale.

But Tony Irish, chief executive of the SA Cricketers’ Association (Saca) told Sport24 on Thursday that the interim Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the players’ body and CSA, achieved a few days ago after the existing one for a four-year period expired at the end of April, facilitated these players’ ongoing presence domestically.

The franchise contracting window opened in March, and it is understood that roughly half of the highest-profile Kolpak players who have traditionally been stalwarts of the SA domestic summer may not return anyway for the 2018/19 season, following the worryingly drawn-out and sometimes fractious process of establishing a new MOU.

An interim deal is now in place pending intended, delayed completion of the MOU-proper by the end of June.

“Kolpak players have for a number of years played domestic cricket in South Africa under regulations agreed between CSA and SACA,” Irish explained. “Their contracts have also always been part of the player payment pool under the MOU.

“CSA has wanted to change that: (that is) they can play but their contracts are not part of the player payment pool.

“We have not agreed to the change as it is likely to result in many of those players not being contracted – they are often senior players who add to the strength of the domestic competitions.

“(But) the interim agreement reached last week allows Kolpak players to continue to be part of the player payment pool.”

Whilst the issue of South African players committing to earning the majority of their bread and butter in pounds is inevitably an emotion-charged one, there is also a powerful case for saying that the swollen Kolpak brigade still greatly enhance the sometimes embattled domestic landscape – especially in a climate which sees increasingly few current Proteas stars play with any regularity for their franchises due to the packed international roster.

Statistics from last season’s Sunfoil Series, for example, only demonstrated the leading role several Kolpak cricketers played, both in weight-of-own-numbers terms but presumably in all-important mentoring value to younger, less world-wise team-mates as well.

Warriors (and Essex) off-spinner Simon Harmer easily topped the wicket-taking charts with 47 at an average of 21.85, whilst Dolphins batsman/wicketkeeper Dane Vilas scored 734 runs at 66.72.

Left-handed batsman Stiaan van Zyl, although only introduced by the Cape Cobras at an advanced stage of the campaign, quickly rattled up 540 runs at 90.

All three would probably walk into the Test teams of several countries; likewise other high-profile Kolpak players including Rilee Rossouw, Kyle Abbott, Hardus Viljoen, Marchant de Lange and Colin Ingram.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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