-Rilee Rossouw is also confirmed to join Hampshire on a Kolpak deal
Kyle Abbott’s international career has effectively been ended following the second Test against Sri Lanka after talks with Cricket South Africa failed to dissuade him from accepting a Kolpak deal with Hampshire.
ESPNcricinfo broke the news of Abbott’s signing on Tuesday, of which CSA had no knowledge. The board has spent the last two days in meetings with Abbott’s agent, Weber van Wyk, but they were unable to come to any arrangement that will convince Abbott to stay in South Africa, and his contract has been terminated with immediate effect. It was also confirmed that batsman Rilee Rossouw will be joining Abbott at Hampshire , also on a Kolpak deal.
“It has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make but it is the right decision for me,” Abbott said after the second Test concluded. “There have been a few evenings where I have gone to sleep wondering if I made the right decision and woken up in the morning knowing I have. The last few months [since I made the decision], it’s about playing with the weight off my shoulders. In the last few months, I have never felt far away from being dropped. I’ve now played thinking if I do, it doesn’t matter. I am really enjoying it. If I wasn’t committed to South African cricket, I would have done this a long time ago.
“February would be four years since my international debut. Ever since I played in South Africa, at every level, there has always been a quota system. I have never used it as an excuse and I won’t now. I need to pay bills, I need to buy groceries.”
Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, said: “That was not the way we wanted. It was something that we didn’t expect and it was out of our control. We did get together and spoke to Kyle and tried to change his mind. Kyle had already set up what he wanted to do. Then it was just about me making sure the boys were focused on the job at hand. The boys were brilliant. Even Kyle. He wanted to make sure everything was about the team. I’m a little bit upset that Kyle couldn’t get one or two wickets. I would have liked to see him do well in his last outing.”
Addressing the broader issues which have led to Abbott’s decision to turn his back on international cricket at the age of 29, du Plessis said there were factors that needed to be addressed.
“It’s a red flag,” he said. “We have to address it. As the Proteas and as CSA, we need to make sure it doesn’t happen. It is always going to be a challenge. The foreign currency is something that will always be there. It’s too important and too valuable to say that whatever happens, happens and there will be players to fill the gap. That’s not good enough.
“Opportunity, money, transformation. There are a lot of factors guys will look at as their excuse or as their reason. What Kyle’s is, I am not sure. Every single reason is a concern. He is someone who has not been sure for a period of time. He wants security.”
On the reasons for Abbott not being given the final Test, du Plessis said: “I want him playing for South Africa. He is not going to be part of our team so if he is not going to be part of our team, it’s time to move on. I respect his decision but I don’t agree with it.
“Six months ago, I could have understood it more. Sitting here today, I don’t understand it as well. I am extremely surprised. I care so much about him that I want him to play for South Africa, I want him to do well and perform on the biggest stage on the world because I think he is an amazing cricketer and that’s the place to be. I am disappointed for those reasons.”
Hampshire have confirmed that Abbott’s county deal is for four years – Rossouw is joining the club on a three-year deal – and, with the series already decided, it is understood the selectors viewed Abbott’s impending exit as an opportunity to blood another bowler ahead of tours to New Zealand and England later this year.
Wayne Parnell is already in the squad as a reserve seamer but, with four seamers being a possibility in Johannesburg, and Morne Morkel yet to recover fully from a back injury, Knights seamer Duanne Olivier, who tops the first-class wicket charts, has been called up.
Several other South Africans are believed to be considering similar options to Abbott and Rossouw.
“If somebody gives up their right to play for the Proteas, there’s not much more we can do,” said Haroon Lorgat, CSA’s chief executive. “Instead of crying over spilt milk, we will invest in future Proteas.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent