TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THE transformation debate veered away from one of its dominant narratives on Tuesday when Dane Piedt was reported to be “happy to play (county cricket) as a Kolpak”.
That would preclude him from representing South Africa for as long as he was on a Kolpak contract.
It would also make Piedt that rare thing: a player of colour who has sought to further his career in another country.
White players have been far more likely to take that route, and often they are followed by a chorus of criticism of the quota selection policies that are a cornerstone of efforts to racially transform the game at all levels in South Africa.
Former South Africa allrounder Jacques Kallis would have earned approval from that lobby for the tweet he posted after Keaton Jennings, the son of apartheid-era wicketkeeper Ray Jennings and a former captain of South Africa’s under-19 team who moved to England four years ago, scored 112 on his test debut against India in Mumbai on Thursday.
“Yet another one slips through our system,” Kallis wrote, perhaps mindful of the fact that Simon Harmer, Stiaan van Zyl and Hardus Viljoen – who between them have played 18 tests for South Africa between December 2014 and January 2016 – have all taken the Kolpak option in the past two months.
But Kallis’ former captain, Graeme Smith, had a different take: “Everyone’s probably going to go with the transformation angle but Cricket South Africa have been open and honest about their transformation policies now and I like that; it’s nice to see them put themselves out there.
“It’s always going to be a hot topic when someone’s left the country and got a hundred for another team.”
Just as it would be if off-spinner Piedt, who made his debut in August 2014 and has played seven tests but was not picked for the test tour to Australia last month, took himself out of the running for a place in the South African team.
Has he done so, as the Guardian’s website suggested on Tuesday in an article headlined, “Cricket South Africa admit they are powerless to stop England player drain”?
“It’s not that he’s specifically looking for a Kolpak offer,” Piedt’s agent, Francois Brink, told TMG Digital. “We put his name out to the counties and whatever offers come in we will consider them.
“If it’s a short-term contract that’s an easy decision. If it’s a Kolpak deal it will be a weighty decision and it will be considered with due seriousness.
“Right now there’s nothing on the table and Dane is fully committed to South African cricket.”
Brink, whose agency negotiated Harmer’s contract with Essex, said the uncertainty of the future of Kolpak contracts in the wake of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union had added to their attractiveness for players.
“No-one knows what it’s going to look like post-2017, so if you have the chance rather get on board now,” Brink said of the Kolpak principle, which was established in May 2003 when a court granted citizens from countries that had association agreements with the European Union (EU) the same right to work and movement in the region as EU citizens.
That means players from South Africa, which has an association agreement with the EU, who sign Kolpak agreements with counties are not subject to the quota for overseas players.
As handy as the provision is for players from countries like ours, with its weak currency and comparatively scarce opportunities for professional cricketers, it is not the prize South Africans have their eye on, Brink said.
“I’ve yet to meet a South African player who says, ‘My aspiration is to play Kolpak cricket’. All of them want to play for South Africa.
“But sometimes that turns out to be a pipe dream and you plan accordingly.”