Rob Key looks at Kolpak contracts and their impact on English cricket
By Rob Key
Last Updated: 06/01/17 6:42pm
After Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw made the controversial decision to turn their backs on international cricket in favour of joining Hampshire, Rob Key discusses the thorny issue of Kolpak contracts…
There was a time about three-quarters of the way through last summer where word got out that there might be a few South African players up for grabs.
After they changed the quota system for the South African team, there was talk that there might be a few players trying to go Kolpak, as there have been for a number of years now.
Whether it is a good thing for English cricket depends on who you get. Even getting an international class player, it really depends on what stage of their career they are in and what type of attitude they have.
In my time at Kent, we were very lucky to have someone of the calibre of Martin van Jaarsveld who was outstanding - not only for the runs he scored but because young players were able to learn from him.
I'd place Abbott in the same category because he's not far out of the peak of his career, has a lot of cricket left in him and has every chance of enhancing the cricket here. Plus, he will also give a lot off the field to bring these young players forward.
The best standard of domestic cricket I played was when there were two overseas players and a lot of Kolpak players around. So they raise the standard in that regard.
We used to sign them where there was a gap and we didn't feel there was someone coming through. For example, we never signed an overseas spinner because we always had James Tredwell who was young and coming through. I think that is important as a club.
The best standard of domestic cricket I played was when there were two overseas players and a lot of Kolpak players around.
I always believed as a captain that it was wrong to bring in a Kolpak who could block the path of a young English player who had a chance of making a career.
But we did bring Ryan McLaren over at a time when we didn't have a lot of bowling options.
What we had to do was use these players as a stop-gap and then redouble our efforts so that in future we could produce our own players so you aren't in the same position again in five or six years' time. You have to look at your youth structure and everything.
I'm not against Kolpak players at all as long as they're hungry, desperate to prove themselves and want to give everything they can to the county they're playing for and they're not just there to collect a pay cheque or taking the spot from a good, young English player.
There are a lot of young players around but they need to be of a good standard. If you have a young player who is never going to be good enough - I'd rather have a Kolpak.
In terms of how English players view the situation with Kolpak players, in general, people look at it with their own agenda in mind.
If you got down into the deep politics about why these things are happening in South African cricket, there probably isn't a huge amount of understanding among English players but you look at how it affects you.
If you're an established player, who is guaranteed a place, then you want as good a team as possible so that you can compete and win trophies.
On the other hand, if you're a youngster or someone who thinks the Kolpak player might have the same skill level as you, you're probably not overly keen on it.
The overall view is that the English system is a pretty fair. If you're good enough, you'll get the reward that you deserve and I think that is what protects our system a little bit.
People go out and play thinking they have a chance to play for England if they score runs or take wickets. You see it all the way through. For instance, Ben Duckett had an excellent year - he hadn't really ever been picked for the Lions before that - and then all of a sudden, he's on an England tour.
That helps everyone, whether you're playing second team or whatever it is, it gives you encouragement to know that if you perform then you'll get a chance.
It is also important to point out that there is a difference between Abbott and Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott or Keaton Jennings, who come over and want to get to the highest level.
Someone like Abbott has now turned his back on international cricket when he's still a good enough bowler to be in and around the South African set up.
I often think that the likes of Pietersen, Trott and Robin Smith have enhanced our game hugely. The better the standard of domestic cricket, the more prepared players are for international cricket.All in all, I think it will be more a benefit than a detriment to English cricket.