Duanne Olivier’s move to Yorkshire has sparked a familiar debate in cricket this week and I can see both sides of it.
The fast bowler has signed a three-year contract with the county via the Kolpak ruling, meaning he has essentially given up his international career with South Africa, aged just 26.
Kolpaks in county cricket are nothing new but Olivier’s decision is remarkable because it comes straight after a breakthrough period for him with his country.
From a South Africa perspective it’s disappointing. With Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander nearing the end of their careers, Olivier has developed into one of their best bowlers, taking 31 wickets at an average of 17 in his last five Tests.
He clearly has a bright future, so it’s a shame we won’t get to see him playing on the international stage – at least for the next three years.
It points to an obvious problem with South Africa’s system because Olivier feels he needs to take the security of a three-year deal Yorkshire for his future.
As a former fast bowler myself I know that careers can be cut short at any moment by injury. Sometimes you’ve simply got to look after yourself first.
Yorkshire is the safe option: the contract is longer, the money is better and it’s a more secure place to live than South Africa, which is a consideration when raising a family.
I don’t think Olivier’s decision devalues international cricket. Of course there is pride in playing for your country and if the circumstances were different he might have stayed, but ultimately it comes down to the individual.
Some players make a living all around the world in franchise Twenty20 leagues because the money is there, and this is a similar situation.
The Kolpak question
The widespread use of Kolpak players in county cricket is a divisive issue, with some people worried they take the places of young English talent in teams.
While I agree this can be a problem if too many are at a single county, I actually think if they are dotted around the clubs they are generally a positive for our domestic competition.
Those who are stuck on the sidelines are unlikely to develop into players with England potential anyway and in fact high-quality Kolpak players can pass on their experience and skills to youngsters.
They also serve to raise the standards. The likes of Andre Nel, who I played alongside at Surrey, or Kyle Abbott, who is currently at Hampshire, provide stern tests for opposition batsmen.
Olivier can bowl at 90mph and has just taken wickets against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the Test arena, so he’s definitely going to cause a different type of problem to county cricket batsmen, who are used to dealing with medium pacers.
Those who are good enough to make the step up to international cricket will always filter through, and improving the standard of competition only helps speed up that process.
The way the Kolpak system works currently means county chairmen are always going to be on the look-out for players of a high standard.
Unless changes are made, Olivier won’t be the last overseas player who decides to take up the opportunity.