Cricket, it never ceases to amaze me in its consistent complexity.
Today I learned about something call the Kolpak rule, a rule that says that players from nations associated with the EU can play cricket in EU nations without counting against any homegrown rules. Or something like that. Basically, players from South Africa or Zimbabwe or Barbados can play cricket for, say, Yorkshire, without counting as one of Yorkshire’s eight allowed overseas players.
The latest “defector” is South African fast bowler Duanne Olivier, who turned his back on international cricket today to go play domestic cricket in England.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) Chief Exec Thabang Moroe had this to say regarding Olivier’s decision to effectively end his international cricketing career:
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 Test match 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.
Now, I don’t personally think that is the case. 42 South African players have left the international team via the Kolpak rule since 2004, which isn’t exactly a mass exodus. And who knows what effect Brexit could have on the ruling, so this all might be a moot point soon. But even if it’s not, I have — in just the decade-plus that I have been following the game — heard a thousand different things that were going to be the ultimate death of Test and/or international cricket. From the IPL to the Kolpak ruling. And none of them have. And the game keeps churning on and churning out great matches. It’s like people who think the next big scandal is going to be the one that brings down Donald Trump, but he always gets past it and he always will. Not that I think that’s a good thing, but anyway.
Back to cricket: I am reminded of this Tweet from a few days ago:
Test cricket — and international cricket — are not dying. They will be fine. They have been around for almost 150 years and there’s no reason why they won’t be around for 150 more.
But, that said, the quote from Moroe made me think of this Tweet from a Scottish cricket writer:
I disagree with the overall sentiment. I will watch the World Cup and I think it will be a great tournament. And while the teams are, more or less, the same, the players are different. It’s just the kits that will be same as they were four years ago in Australia and New Zealand. But the news regarding Olivier is a reminder of the comforting notion that the game will evolve — because of rules like Kolpak, and the IPL, and even The Hundred — and maybe the international game will weaken and eventually fall away. But it will be replaced, possibly, by something even better, something where we get to see new teams and new faces on new pitches, and not just the same old teams at the same old venues, as great as those teams and venues and pitches might be.
Cricket, like life, is constant change. But don’t confuse change with death. It’s the opposite. Change is breathing, evolution, forward motion. If you’re new to the game, don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere. It might look very different than it does today, but then again so will everything else. As cricket fans we have to learn to deal with the constant exaggerated reports of our favorite game’s imminent demise. It’s part of the package.
The game will never stop changing, will never stop teaching, and in that regard will always be interesting. Maybe not always great, but it will never not get our attention.