Kolkata: Daryll Cullinan, one of the batting mainstays of South Africa in the early years of their comeback from the apartheid-driven isolation, sounded a word of caution about the rainbow nation’s cricketing future. ‘‘I don’t know if we are going to qualify for the next 50-overs World Cup. Unlike the previous system where the full member countries were guaranteed a spot, they have to now qualify and that’s where the worry lies,’’ said the star batsman of the Nineties.
Striking a critical stance of the way the sport is being run in a country with a rich cricketing legacy, Cullinan rued that his country were simply not good enough in the last edition in England. Giving an example of how New Zealand has broken through as a major force in all formats of the game, the owner of highest first class individual score in South Africa (337 not out) said: ‘‘Look at the way New Zealand have punched above their weight in recent times by producing some smart cricketers. Even countries like Bangladesh and the West Indies are showing signs of improvement,’’ he said in a wide ranging conversation with W.V.Raman, former Indian opener, in his Youtube show ‘Inside Out.’
The Proteas, however, are now ranked fifth in both ICC Test and ODI rankings - not an outright poor showing despite the talent drain in recent years due to the Kolpak System as well as the administrative collapse of Cricket South Africa, the governing body of the sport in the country.
There is, however, a glimmer of hope at the end of ‘Kolpak deal’ following the United Kingdom’s impending exit from the European Union - which currently gives anyone with a work permit from a country that has an associate trading agreement with the European Union the same rights as an EU worker.
South African cricketers have been major beneficiaries of the rule down the years, signing lucrative contracts with English counties that automatically disqualified them from representing the national team.
However, Graeme Smith, former South African captain and Director of CSA said recently they would welcome back any former Kolpak player who are willing to be part of the domestic structures as the national side struggles to rebuild their ailing Test team - and according to Cullinan - this is a step in the right direction. ‘‘Our Kolpak players will be coming back and this will give the selectors a bigger pool to choose from,’’ he felt.
A few of the South Africans who would be in immediate reckoning are Essex spinner Simon Harmer, who was named one of five Cricketers of the Year in the 2020 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, seamers Duane Olivier and Kyle Abbott and batsman Rilee Rossouw.
Never one to mince his words, Cullinan accused the CSA management of a ‘‘leadership failure,’’ while he feels that the government directive of a quota-based selection betrayed a lack of cricket wisdom in today’s world. ‘‘The cricket body is an absolute mess, it’s a mis-match of different agenda - from political to financial regularities. It’s said for me to see a state like this,’’ he said.
Looking back in time, Cullinan - who was one of the key members of the squad led by the late Hansie Cronje - is still appalled at the fate of his favourite captain. ‘‘It was a massive shock for all of us when the news of his alleged involvement (with corruptors) came out. He had done so much good for South African cricket, he was our ultimate ambassador. He had the charisma, spoke well and commanded attention from everyone,’’ he said.
‘‘At the end of the day, we all are human beings, we make mistakes. However, you cannot condone what he had done,’’ he added.
What is Kolpak Ruling?
The Kolpak Ruling is named after Maros Kolpak, a Slovak handball player, who in 2000 claimed restraint of trade and won a European court ruling that allowed him to play in Germany before Slovakia became part of the EU.
It’s a ruling which the South African cricketers took advantage of, as seamer Dane Paterson, who played in two Tests against England in January, became the 45th South African to take up a Kolpak deal when he signed for Nottinghamshire earlier this month.
However, he could well be the last with the UK set to exit the European Union in December, which could see a rush of seasoned former South Africa internationals back into the frame for selection.