The fact that South Africa is set to have five months off during the next English summer is only just beginning to sink in with the Poms. And boy, are they getting excited.
Herschelle Gibbs announced yesterday that he was keen to play county cricket and there has already been an ugly scramble to make contact.
One person even called me (!) to get his number. Far from his, err, ‘record’ being a disincentive for future employers, many county chairmen see Gibbs and his reputation as a bonus. A certain ‘naughty glamour’ might just put a couple of hundred extra bums on seats.
But Gibbs won’t be in the ‘super league’ of salary scales. No, the REALLY big bucks will be reserved for the all rounders and fast bowlers.
Lance Klusener said a couple of years ago that he had no intention of playing county cricket because it would deprive him of months of prime fishing time. “Unless,” he added, “someone makes me a really silly offer.”
Well, the silly offers are being prepared for Zulu, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Nicky Boje, Makhaya Ntini, Mfuneko Ngam…Andre Nel. The list goes on. Shaun Pollock has already told Warwickshire that he is interested in returning as the overseas professional, in principle.
It’s unfair to talk purely of money because it is a fact that most of the above-mentioned players would love the challenge of playing in England and they would undoubtedly improve as players and ‘broaden’ as people. (The only exception may be Klusener. Some how I can’t see the Zulu being very happy travelling around between Derby, Northampton and Leicester under grey skies, staying in tiny hotel rooms full of boring people drinking too much warm beer.)
The final question concerns the contract with the UCB that all national players are bound to. It covers all 12 months in the year and, obviously, Gerald Majola and his lieutenants can protect their assets in the way they see best.
But is there a moral question, too? With a cool million rand on offer to many of SA’s best, it is a five month period that could form the basis for lifetime financial security and the UCB simply can’t compete with that.
I have a strong feeling that the top of next years county batting and bowling averages will have a strong South African flavour.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.