Duanne Olivier, South Africa’s most recent pace sensation, may have played his last international match for the Proteas after signing a three-year deal with county side Yorkshire, pending clearance of Kolpak regulations.
Olivier is set to link up with his new team-mates at Potchefstroom early in March, having decided to abandon his promising international career after just ten Tests, during which he impressed with 48 wickets at a sublime average of 19.25.
He returned three five-wicket hauls and took a match-haul of 11/96 in the first Test against Pakistan in December. He had also made his one-day international debut last month – he took three wickets in two ODIs – but he admitted a trip to the United Kingdom last year had helped make up his mind when Yorkshire came calling.
Duanne Olivier is the Player of the Match for his 11/96 across the two innings 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/0Jj3383Grr— ICC (@ICC) December 28, 2018
“I came over to the UK last year and thoroughly enjoyed my time playing county cricket,” he was quoted as saying by Yorkshire. “I have since realised I could happily base myself there for the foreseeable future.
“I was originally looking to come back as an overseas player, but when I got a long-term offer from Yorkshire as a Kolpak, I knew that signing for the club would be the best option for both myself and my family.”
He revealed in a statement posted on Instagram that the deal was set in motion before his second breakthrough as a Test cricketer, against Pakistan. "Before this Pakistan tour, I hadn't played Test cricket since the Bangladesh tour in 2017 which led to me exploring other options in my career. I am not one to harp on past decisions and have bad blood as I am grateful for the opportunities I got.
"I do believe in being proactive and feel that in any career it is always good to have options should it look like a door could close. I started considering this route when I learned of the invaluable experience and opportunities it would open for me."
Olivier's decision, however, has been called "extremely disappointing" by Thabang Moroe, the chief executive of Cricket South Africa. He said they had given him every opportunity "to live his dream of being an international cricketer" and warned the trend didn't bode well for the global game.
"He was upgraded to a national contract during the current season on the strength of his outstanding performances in our Test squad and we offered him a two-year contract which would have given him financial security through to the end of the 2020-2021 season," Moroe said in a statement.
“He was not short of opportunity either as he played in all six Test matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka during the current summer and was also considered for white-ball selection.
“If one looks at the bigger picture this is not good news for the global game either that a player who has just broken into the top 20 on the ICC [MRF Tyres] Test bowling rankings for the first time should opt effectively to bring down the curtain on his international career in favour of playing only in domestic leagues."
BREAKING: The Yorkshire County Cricket Club is delighted to announce the signing of fast bowler Duanne Olivier, who will join the club ahead of the 2019 campaign, subject to clearance through Kolpak regulations.#YourYorkshire— Yorkshire CCC (@YorkshireCCC) February 26, 2019
Olivier did, however, admit leaving a promising Test career – he took 24 wickets in the series against Pakistan and rose to No.19 in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings for bowlers – behind was a difficult decision to make.
“I would be lying if I said this wasn’t a difficult decision to make,” he added. “It’s giving up playing for my country, with no guarantees of playing international cricket again. But at the end of the day, I needed to be true to myself. I’ve only got this one chance to see where my talent can take me, and Yorkshire just felt right to me.
“I can be whatever type of bowler the team needs me to be. There is a lot of stigma around the fact that people think I can only bowl short balls, because that is what I’ve done in Test matches. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. If my team has asked me to bowl short, that’s what I’ll do.
“It’s giving up playing for my country, with no guarantees of playing international cricket again".
“I will fill the enforcer role if needed, and sometimes the team will need me to be a back-up where my job is to tire out and frustrate the batsmen so that another strike-bowler may come and take the wicket. I think my strength lies in my flexibility to fill whatever role is required of me. I do like to be the guy the captain goes to when things get tough. And I prefer bowling longer spells.”
As for Yorkshire, Olivier’s signing represents a big coup. They had to “beat off competition from a number of other counties” and Martyn Moxon, the Yorkshire director of cricket, said it was a “huge boost” for the county.
Duanne Olivier ⬆️— ICC (@ICC) January 15, 2019
Aiden Markram ⬆️
Hashim Amla ⬆️
Quinton de Kock ⬆️
The latest @MRFWorldwide ICC Test Rankings reflects South Africa's 3-0 win over Pakistan.
➡️ https://t.co/PJxhzhE9pA pic.twitter.com/6fYOIxOu7u
“We’re delighted that Duanne has agreed to join us. He’s a proven wicket-taker as we’ve seen in the series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka recently,” he said. “He’s also got genuine pace so he gives us a different dimension within our seam bowling attack.
“To get someone of Duanne’s ability is a huge boost and we’re all looking forward to him joining us. We hope it’s going to be a long-term signing, it’s for an initial three years but we’re hoping it will be for longer than that.
"As a person in the dressing room, I think he’ll be really strong for us. I think the fact he’s giving up international cricket for South Africa to play here shows his commitment and I think he’ll be a great asset for us.”