TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg
NEXT season’s proposed T20 competition could be central to the player retention policy being planned in the wake of a rash of high-profile Kolpak signings.
The tournament will run independently from the country’s other events and is to feature some of global cricket’s biggest stars.
It could also give pause for thought to South Africans looking to join the exodus to England that, in less than a week has claimed Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw and David Wiese.
Tony Irish, the chief executive of the South African Cricketers’ Association which, with Cricket South Africa (CSA), are drafting a plan to keep players in the country, said throwing money at the problem wouldn’t solve it.
“It’s about security but not just financial security,” Irish said on Wednesday.
“It’s a number of issues including the way players are man-managed. That could be a lot better.
“It’s also a lot about giving players aspiration in the system, and I think this global T20 league we are planning is critical to that.
“To have our own, really good T20 event, like the Big Bash (in Australia), is a very important for the retention of our players.
“There’s a financial element to that. But it’s also about aspiration in the system, it’s about giving the players something that they really want to play in within the system in front of bigger crowds, something that’s broadcast around the world.
“If we can get something like the Big Bash going, and I think CSA, by all indications, are very determined to do that, and we’re very supportive of that.”
Irish’s position is complicated by the fact that he is also the executive chair of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations.
“It is a bit of a balance because we definitely stand for player opportunity in all the players’ associations around the world,” he said.
“But the recognition of the importance of international cricket and the role it plays and trying to make that as strong as possible is still a very big priority for us.
“Our player base is not just the guys who are able to get opportunities to play around the world, whether those are Kolpak opportunities or T20 league opportunities.
“We act for 250 players here in South Africa and the players’ associations around the world represent hundreds of players in their systems.
“International cricket is what keeps those systems strong. It provides the structures and it funds the whole cricket structure.
“We’re about the collective interests of players, so it’s very important that we try and keep international cricket strong.”
For Titans chief executive Jacques Faul, who is also a lawyer and a former acting CSA chief executive, money was the best motivating factor among the limited options South Africa had for hanging onto their players.
“You first intervention would be limiting the number of Kolpak players (in South Africa’s domestic competitions), although I wonder if that’s not challengeable,” Faul said.
“There are only a few ways in which you can retain people. One is contractual, so you sign them for the duration of a contract that you can extend.
“Legally you bind them. But that eventually runs out and players can refuse to sign it.
“The only other way you can do it is with money – to compete in terms of what they get offered to leave.
“You can appeal to the honour and the privilege of playing for your country but that seems to go only that far.
“It doesn’t buy the groceries, as Kyle would say.”
Faul said tackling the problem by abolishing racial quotas – which cricket’s Trumpist right wing blame when a white player signs a Kolpak deal – “doesn’t make sense”.
But he warned against alienating players who had taken up Kolpak deals from playing in South Africa.
“Wiese still plays for us,” Faul said. “As much as I agree you want him available for South Africa it still makes it a very strong (franchise) competition (with Kolpak players involved despite their international unavailability).”
Faul saw “a double standard in that we say let’s all sign an overseas, high profile player for the T20 competition to make it more attractive – and when our okes want to play abroad we say we can’t believe you’re leaving for money”.
He was also mindful at how much public anger had followed the spate of Kolpak defections.
“That was almost a shock,” Faul said.
“As much as we try and rationalise the Kolpak phenomenon you’ve got to take notice of that.
“It was raw anger, and there’s a lesson in that.”