South Africa coach Russell Domingo bore the frustrated air of someone who was wondering what the hell was going on.
The Proteas had just completed an emphatic series win over Sri Lanka, beginning 2017 in the same joyous, triumphant fashion as they had played in the second half of 2016.
Yet all the coach was doing at his post-match press conference was answering questions about two stars who have now been lost to South African cricket.
Kyle Abbott’s departure was expected after rumours surfaced on the first day of the Test that he would sign a Kolpak deal to play for Hampshire from the beginning of the English county season.
The news, confirmed just moments earlier by Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat, that young batsman Rilee Rossouw, currently out injured, would be following the same route to the same team was a bolt from the blue.
And then the frustration boiled over and Domingo, who has had to bear considerable career uncertainty himself over the last 18 months, spoke of how let down he feels.
“Six to eight months ago, Kyle spoke to me about his future and I encouraged him to stay in the system, and that was while Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn were still fit, and Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada are two of the best bowlers in the world. I then heard nothing and thought the whole thing had subsided until two days ago.
“What’s really disappointing is that we weren’t allowed to make a pitch. Nobody is guaranteed the right to play for their country, but I understand everyone wants to feel secure, that’s just the nature of people. Obviously there are issues that are not being discussed openly or sincerely.
“So we’ve picked guys when they’ve known they’re done and it has set me back in my planning. For example, Kyle was going to take the new ball in the Champions Trophy, he’s ahead of Dale and Morne now,” Domingo said.
From Abbott’s point of view, the 29-year-old did not know that and said all the years of wondering when he was going to be dropped again had been the main reason behind him signing the Kolpak deal, which he also confirmed that he had inked five months ago.
Captain Faf du Plessis said the departure of Abbott had taken some of the gloss off their victory over Sri Lanka.
“It’s a massive loss, when Dale got injured he stepped in, he deserved his chance and he made his place like his own forever. We’ll really miss Kyle the player but also what he’s like as a person.”
Du Plessis said the departures of Abbott and Rossouw, plus those of fringe players like Hardus Viljoen, Stiaan van Zyl and Simon Harmer, made it imperative for CSA to come up with solutions.
“We have to learn from it, it’s a red flag and we have to make sure that it never happens again. We need to work out how to address it, it’s like rugby in that the foreign currency issue will always be there, but we can’t just sit back and say new players will always be there,” Du Plessis said.
Lorgat was as disappointed as Domingo and said he felt left out of the loop.
“It’s a sad day and it would have been a lot more befitting if they had made me aware of this sometime back and they could have engaged in some conversations with me about contracts. I’m disappointed that I have had no part in the decision because I would have tried to convince Kyle to remain behind,” Lorgat said.
The CEO said the Kolpak problem was due to international conditions so there was not much CSA could do to prevent more players from following that route.
“In this global village we live in and with the mobility of the individual, the transfer of people from one country to another is like people used to move from a village to the city. Plus there’s the decline of the South African currency and a need to keep our talent in this country – be they teachers, doctors, accountants or cricketers.
“So there’s not much more we can do, it’s a reality we have to face.”