LONDON – The past three weeks have given Duanne Olivier ample opportunity to combat the flak flying towards him for turning his back on a Test career in its prime. Now for the bombshell – he wants to resume it with England.
There have been plenty of South African cricketers who quit their homeland for Kolpak contracts with English counties over the past couple of decades, of course. Olivier is the 43rd.
But he is the first to be taken from the bosom of his country’s Test team declaring a desire to pull on the England sweater.
Indignation in his homeland, following his rejection of a two-year central contract from Cricket South Africa for one of three in Yorkshire, is about to go up a notch.
Sportsmail broke the news of Yorkshire’s pursuit of the 26-year-old Olivier last November, and reported that they remained confident of securing his signature, even after his recall for South Africa the following month.
That confidence was not misplaced, which was all the more remarkable given that the fast bowler claimed 24 wickets, the Man of the Series award in a whitewashing of Pakistan, and was even thrust into the Proteas’ white-ball plans at the start of a year that includes a World Cup.
And so, with a 10-Test career of 48 wickets in cold storage for now, he bowled his first deliveries as a Yorkshire player on Monday in a pre-season fixture against Durham in Potchefstroom, 200 miles from his birthplace of Groblersdal.
Next week, accompanied by his wife Casey Leigh, he will arrive in Leeds to embark on a commitment to this country that he believes could see him represent England.
Olivier said: “I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and if you just concentrate on doing well, that will take care of itself.
“I don’t think too far ahead. Yes, it will be a goal to play for England one day, and it would be amazing, but for now, my pure focus is on Yorkshire.’
His salary at Headingley – approaching £150 000 – is roughly three times what he would have earned with South Africa.
The guarantee of an extra year was a bonus, while the exchange rate of R19 to the pound is favourable, too. Financially, it was a no-brainer. As Olivier says, “Every person needs security”.
Look who’s here. @Duanne992 looks great in a Yorkshire shirt! 😍
— Yorkshire CCC (@YorkshireCCC) March 15, 2019
Even so, purists are shocked that he has given up the lure of Test cricket, plus all hope of a World Cup place. It was, as CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe lamented, a blow for the global game.
Olivier countered: “I can understand that people are upset, but I have not played a lot of one-day cricket, especially for South Africa or the A side.
“I made my ODI debut only this year, and over those couple of games, I think they were seeing what I could offer.
“I don’t think I would have been in the World Cup squad, as they have enough bowlers.
“I wasn’t looking too far ahead at World Cup spots being up for grabs, it was just taking it day by day. I thought about everything, and while sitting down with my wife, we discussed the pros and cons.
“This was not about looking back and allowing external factors to influence us. It is what my wife and I feel, and what we want to achieve going forward.
🗣️ "It’s a massive honour to play for such a prestigious club like Yorkshire"
— Yorkshire CCC (@YorkshireCCC) March 16, 2019
“Relocating is just the best decision for me and my family, for our future.
“I realise some people will understand and some people won’t, but it doesn’t really faze me what they think. It’s about what I want to do.
“I feel like my cricket will improve playing county cricket.”
Olivier is excited about what he can contribute to Yorkshire’s cause ahead of a debut against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on April 5, having rediscovered his love for the game in taking 31 Division Two wickets as Derbyshire’s overseas player in the first half of 2018.
READ: Duanne Olivier has made no secret of the fact that giving up international cricket with South Africa was the hardest decision he’ll ever have to make. But the in-form quick has admitted that choosing Yorkshire was easy.#OneRose
— Yorkshire CCC (@YorkshireCCC) March 19, 2019
In this winter’s Test series, Olivier starred against Pakistan as a first-change enforcer.
Tall and rangy, he loved the bouncy South African surfaces – but he is now determined to show he has the tools to become an elite performer in this country.
“I don’t want to be classified as one type of bowler. It depends on the surfaces on which we play. If I’m in rhythm, I get that late out-swing and that’s key for me, especially on pitches in England.
“The short ball is also something I back myself to deliver well, though. It doesn’t matter if it’s a green-seaming top or a flat one, quick bowlers need to use the short one to keep the batsmen honest.
— Yorkshire CCC (@YorkshireCCC) March 18, 2019
“For me, I don’t want to waste my bouncer because it’s one of my strengths. If I can make them play or defend it with their hands up in the air, then that’s good for me.”
Olivier’s first wicket for Yorkshire will be the 400th of his first-class career, and will begin the most controversial chapter in his story so far.
SO, HOW WILL HE QUALIFY?
ON January 1, the ECB reduced the qualification period required for players to switch allegiance from another Test nation from seven years, bringing them into line with the rest of cricket’s international community.
A player can be selected for England if they:
a) Hold British citizenship.
b) Were born in England or Wales, or have completed three years’ residence (210 days per year, April-March).
c) Have not played as a local player in professional international or domestic cricket in a full member country within the last three years.