Leading Edge: Why we’re all wrong about Abbott

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

WHO, really, is Kyle Abbott? Is he the guy who sounded fully committed to South Africa’s cause at St George’s Park or the guy who, less than a week later at Newlands, and only because he had been outed in the media, admitted he had signed a Kolpak deal five months previously?

Is he the poor bastard who was almost in tears as he read a statement confirming his international retirement, or the smug bastard who a minute or two after that was asking reporters if they were going to buy groceries for him?

Hopefully the real Kyle Abbott stands up in Hampshire. Whoever he is, his new employers deserve no more and no less.

There is, as we know by now, anger on all sides of the Abbott equation.

Many South Africans – this columnist among them – feel that Abbott has lied to them, taken them for fools, maybe because we were dumb enough to believe that what he said in Port Elizabeth was the sincere truth.

Others are angry at a system that, they say, chases away young, white talent even as it champions its obsession with balancing the racial scorebooks.

The system itself is de moer in: with Abbott, with Rilee Rossouw – who has also signed a Kolpak contract with Hampshire – with people who refuse to understand that the pound is exponentially stronger than the rand, and with anyone who says it has done clumsy, stupid things in the name of transformation.

We’re all wrong. Here’s why.

This sorry saga isn’t rooted in the events of Newlands on Thursday, or St George’s Park the previous Friday, or Eden Park in Auckland on March 24, 2015 – when the suits were arrogant enough to order Abbott’s axing from the team that played the World Cup semi-final.

Instead, we need to go back to June 29, 1991, when the United Cricket Board was formed and unity in cricket in this country was proclaimed.

Racial unity, that is. Nobody seemed too fussed about bringing the various factions closer in economic or geographic terms to at least try and ensure that the quality of opportunities would be fairly shared.

If you were a black South African with both eyes open on June 29, 1991 you would have struggled to avoid the conclusion that whites had agreed to unity to pave the way for their return to international cricket.

And it was their return. It will be 26 years this June that unity was established, apparently guaranteeing justice for all.

But, if South African cricket was a zebra with its stripes representing the races, that zebra would be all white save for one black stripe.

All the while, black authority and influence has been growing in wider society, which includes Cricket South Africa’s boardroom even though the team has remained problematically pale.

But whites still have more than their fair share financially, which they can use to set themselves up in cricket more securely than many blacks.

Hence the option for players who, if international cricket doesn’t work out for them, have the resources to revert to plan B. Or should that be plan K.

That choice is probably more attractive because a relatively transformed South African team is doing, for some, the unthinkable: winning.

Push has come to shove for a game that has talked about transformation a lot more than it has actually transformed.

So why the surprise that players of means who get less gametime because others of whatever race are picked ahead of them are looking to jump ship?

Goodbye, Kyle Abbott. Whoever you are.

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