Untimely departures loom

The best part about the forthcoming tour of India, perhaps, is the distraction it will create from the disturbing news bubbling out of England at the moment.

A couple of weeks ago I was told that as many as 30 South African cricketers were touting for business on the English county circuit for the 2005 season.

Naturally I believed it to be typical English media hyperbole. Claude Henderson’s desperately sad departure from SA cricket had, indeed, opened doors for SA cricketers to ply their trade as “locals” in the most lucrative market in the game.

Their ‘escape’ is provided by the Kolpak agreement. For those who aren’t familiar with how that works, it’s a political ‘thing’ that says sportsmen should be allowed to work in different countries just as freely as tradesmen are allowed to sell fruit, cars and gold.

Disillusioned white cricketers who feel they are unfairly prejudiced by South Africa’s desire to redress the imbalances and injustices of the past are a commodity we know. Former Natalian Kevin Pieterson broke new records for whining and whingeing when he left four years ago. Couldn’t handle the new South Africa, we said. Fine. Piss off then.

So when I heard about the new list of 30 I thought we might be entering a new era of ‘clear out the dead wood and let the new generation come through.’ In fact, I thought it might be very good news.

I called a few of the senior (white) players in the country to discover whether there was any truth in the rumours. Had they been approached by counties to forsake their right to play for their country to play county cricket instead? Yes, they had. Many of them.

Then I called a county or two, just to check. Had they been approaching South African cricketers? No, they hadn’t. The cricketers had been approaching them, albeit through their agents.

One county was prepared to read me a list of cricketers available for service to English counties. It was an international agent so there were West Indians, Indians, New Zealanders and Australians on his list – and 12 South Africans.

I have no desire to cause a stampede of recrimination and anger, hence I mention no names, but amongst those 12 names there were eight SA internationals, several current.

And three of them were black.

So it’s not a racial thing, ladies and gentlemen. We may not have the infrastructure (right now) to compete with the money offered by England, but we could do a lot better. An honest evaluation of where the money from our loyal sponsors is actually spent would be a great start. How much, if any, actually reaches the players?

To an English county an annual fee (for six months work) of 45,000 pounds is seen as a bargain. For a South African cricketer, even a Test player, that means almost two million rand – with bonuses – for a three year contract.

We have a very large problem and it is fast approaching. I desperately hope our leaders are aware of it and have a plan. It’s important that we all know that

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