The Proteas have lost their fight to keep Kyle Abbott, but the dependable seamer insists it’s not because of transformation.
In an emotional media conference following South Africa’s 282-run victory over Sri Lanka at Newlands, the 29-year-old confirmed he has signed a four-year Kolpak deal with English county side Hampshire.
This type of contract prevents Abbott from playing international cricket.
It’s natural to assume Cricket South Africa’s (CSA’s) increased transformation drive played a hand in his departure.
Abbott was controversially dropped for 2015’s World Cup semifinal against New Zealand for an unfit Vernon Philander after administrative interference.
But he insists that’s not the case.
“Ever since I’ve started playing senior cricket, there have been targets,” said Abbott after initially breaking down emotionally.
“I’ve never used it as an excuse and I’m not going to use it as an excuse now.”
Instead, he revealed it was the uncertainty of continually being the reserve quick bowler in the Proteas squad that got to him.
Abbott has, ever since his Test debut in 2013, been behind Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in the bowling queue.
The rapid emergence of Kagiso Rabada also hasn’t necessarily helped his cause.
“In the past four years, I never felt far away from being dropped. This is one of the hardest decisions of my life,” said Abbott.
“I’ve now played thinking if I do, it doesn’t matter. I am really enjoying it. If I wasn’t committed to South African cricket, I would have done this a long time ago.
“There have been a few evenings where I have gone to sleep wondering if I made the right decision and woken up in the morning knowing I have. The last few months, it’s about playing with the weight off my shoulders.
“I signed this deal because I don’t want to return in 12 months and wear the 12th man’s bib again because everyone else is fit. I’m 30 next year.”
Abbott apologised for the poor timing of the announcement as he had planned to only do so after next week’s third Test in Johannesburg.
Faf du Plessis, the Proteas captain, clearly felt conflicted about the situation.
“I was very surprised when I heard,” he said.
“Six months ago, I would’ve understood his decision because he wasn’t guaranteed a place.
“There are probably many reasons for him to go and I respect his decision.”
Rilee Rossouw, the 27-year-old left-handed top-order batter from the Knights, has also signed a three-year contract with Hampshire.