In recent days, Yorkshire have strengthened their bowling ranks with the signing of South African seamer Duane Olivier on a three year Kolpak contract. He returns to county cricket after a highly successful spell with Derbyshire last season where he took 31 first class wickets at 27.48, including two 5 wicket hauls. Throw in 13 wickets in List A cricket, at a touch under 20, and it is easy to understand why more than one or two Derbyshire fans will be glancing jealously up the M1 to Leeds.
If Derbyshire fans are glancing longingly at Headingley for Olivier then the South African fans may well be looking to the Northern Hemisphere and crying into their Billtong, as Olivier has effectively retired from international cricket to play for Yorkshire.
Following his impressive spell in county cricket Olivier broke into the South African side and has been a revelation for the Proteas. In his ten test matches he has taken 48 wickets at an average of 19.25 and, with Steyn aging and Philander creaking, South Africa thought they had found a foil for the ever impressive Rabada for years to come. Sadly, for members of the rainbow nation, this no longer looks to be the reality.
With two sets of fans looking longingly at Headingley, you would think that Yorkshire fans would be sat with smug looks on their faces today: happy with the signing and gloating about an impressive addition to their bowling line up, looking forward to seeing a genuine fast bowler running in and taking wickets for them.
Olivier is not a one dimensional bowler, either. He is capable of bowling line and length, getting the ball to nip away from the right hander. He can also be used, as he was in the recent test series vs Sri Lanka, as the enforcer, bowling short and – at Olivier’s pace – troubling international quality batsmen with great success.
However, not all Yorkshire fans are happy with the signing. Many took to twitter to voice their concerns around a Kolpak signing who would be blocking the path of young English players, and while the one twitter follower who cited Gary Balance as a foreigner blocking the path of a young English player may be reaching a little, following the signing of another South African born player in Matthew Pillans – and with them yet to announce their official overseas player – Olivier maybe one player born-outside-the-county-pulling-on-the-white-rose too many.
The signing has also prompted a great deal of debate about the impact on South African cricket of players in their prime leaving their national colours to play county cricket. The morality of players being financially better off playing for a domestic county than their national side has also been discussed at length today, along with the impact on the England team as another non-England qualified player appears in the county championship.
One thing that I have not seen discussed at any great length is how Olivier’s signing can strengthen the county championship. He is another high quality player for players to test themselves against, and another high quality player for Yorkshire players to learn from.
Speak to any Derbyshire player and they will tell what a positive influence Olivier was in their dressing room. Speak to any Derbyshire supporter and they will tell you what a positive man Olivier was to have around the ground, too. He was excellent to watch, improved the team and the quality of every game he played in and if a Kolpak signing can do that, then surely it can only be a good thing for the county game.
If, with the March 29thBrexit deadline looming, Olivier is not the last Kolpak deal signed before the legislation takes effect, and if they are of his quality, then I look forward to seeing a higher standard county game in 2019 and beyond.