Duanne Olivier, who left an impressive mark with a string of consistent performances in Tests for South Africa against Pakistan and Sri Lanka over the last few months, has decided to quit international cricket after signing a three-year deal with Yorkshire County Club subject to clearance through Kolpak regulations.
The 26-year-old pacer made his Test debut in January 2017 but was unable to break through into the South African squad till December 2018 against Pakistan. He returned 24 wickets in the three match-Test series and was awarded the Player of the Series for his efforts. He later made his ODI debut against the same opposition where he picked up three wickets in two outings. He last turned out for the Proteas in the two-Test series against Sri Lanka which the hosts lost 2-0.
“I came over to the UK last year and thoroughly enjoyed my time playing county cricket," Olivier told Yorkshire’s website. “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. I am a bowler that wants to keep pushing myself to see how far I can go and as I enter my prime I want to be in the best possible situation to grow. Another big reason was the longevity of my career."
Olivier’s decision to sign the Kolpak deal comes as a surprise considering the excellent form he has been in. Overall, the right-arm pacer has returned 48 wickets in 10 Tests at an average of 19.25 with best figures of 11/96 in a match. His first-class statistics make for an even impressive read. He has picked up 399 wickets in 96 FC games at 21.85.
Oliver accepted that this was a difficult decision to make but admitted that he needed to be true to himself.
“I would be lying if I said this wasn’t a difficult decision to make,” he said. “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 would say I’ve been in good form for the last few years. It has definitely been my most consistent period and I think my stats could attest to that. I have definitely enjoyed playing Test cricket. The Pakistan tour was by far my stand-out tour. I loved every moment of that tour. It’s definitely one I won’t forget."
Olivier further added that he was looking forward to showing the other skills in his repertoire than just the short balls which people generally associate him with.
“I can be whatever type of bowler the team needs me to be. I think 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," he said.
“I will fill the enforcer role if needed and sometimes the team will need me to be a backup 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.”
Director of Cricket Yorkshire, Martyn Moxon said that he was excited by Oliver’s signing insisting that to get someone of his ability was a “massive boost."
“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’s also got genuine pace so he gives us a different dimension within our seam bowling attack. We’re mindful that we’ve got some talented young seamers, but several of them have had injuries so we have to manage them carefully over the next couple of years. It gives us that strength in depth to compete on all fronts.
“To get someone of Duanne’s ability is a huge boost and we’re all looking forward to him joining us."
Cricket South Africa released a statement later on expressing its disappointment at Olivier’s decision to continue his career as a Kolpak player in England.
“We find it extremely disappointing that Duanne has taken this step after all the opportunities we have given him, particularly over the past season and going forward, to live his dream of being an international cricketer,” commented CSA Chief Executive Thabang Moroe.
“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.
“He was not short of opportunity either as he played in all six Castle Lager 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 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,” he concluded.
Proteas head coach Ottis Gibson echoed Moroe’s sentiments. “We are naturally disappointed with Duanne’s decision to sign a Kolpak contract. He has been a key feature for us this summer and was without a doubt one of our standout performers. We held several meetings with him regarding his future with the Proteas throughout the summer and even offered him a two-year contract. To see him cut short a promising international career is disappointing. Ultimately, it was a decision we could not control despite our best efforts."