Duanne Olivier says he has made “possibly the most difficult decision” he’ll ever have to make, after becoming the latest high-profile South African to turn his back on international cricket.
Olivier, who played in last week’s Test series defeat against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth, has agreed a three-year county deal with Yorkshire, subject to clearance through Kolpak regulations, and will link up with his new team-mates for the first time during their fortnight-long pre-season tour to Potchefstroom early next month.
“My decision might be difficult for some to understand but being a professional cricket player is a short-lived career and in order for me to make the most of all my opportunities, I had to consider all my options,” he said in a statement on Instagram.
An aggressive fast bowler, Olivier made his Test debut at Johannesburg in January 2017 – ironically as a replacement for Kyle Abbott, who signed a Kolpak deal with Hampshire – and has since taken 48 wickets in 10 Tests at an average of 19.25. He featured in two Tests on South Africa’s tour of England in July and August 2017, at Trent Bridge and Old Trafford, and returned to the country in 2018 as an overseas player for Derbyshire
“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.”
Nevertheless, the decision was a hard one for Olivier to take, especially given his current international form. In December 2018 he took 24 wickets across the three Tests against Pakistan and was named the player of the series. He backed that up seven wickets in the 2-0 series defeat against Sri Lanka, after which he rose to No.19 in the ICC’s Test bowling rankings.
“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,” he said. “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.
“I would be lying if I said this wasn’t a difficult decision to make,” he added. “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.”
Despite a reputation as a deck-hitting out-and-out quick bowler, Olivier believes he can be a bowler who will fulfil many roles for his new county.
“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.
“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.”
Yorkshire’s director of Cricket, Martyn Moxon, said: “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. He will meet the lads in Potchefstroom for about six days and the plan is for him to get over here in time for the Leeds-Bradford MCCU game.
“We hope it’s going to be a long-term signing, it’s for an initial three years but we’re hoping it will be for longer than that. As a person in the dressing room, I think he’ll be really strong for us. I think the fact he’s giving up international cricket for South Africa to play here shows his commitment and I think he’ll be a great asset for us.
“He played for Derbyshire and we were impressed with what we saw. We’ve tracked his career in South Africa and obviously he has been selected for the Test team and we’ve seen what he’s capable of in international cricket. He’s an impressive man as well as a cricketer and he’s very ambitious going forwards.”
First XI Coach Andrew Gale said: “Duanne has been on the radar for a while. We’ve kept our eye on him and he’s obviously had a fantastic time over the winter in South Africa. To sign someone of his quality will be a great addition to our squad.
“We want the young, Yorkshire bowlers to come through, the likes of Ben Coad, Matthew Fisher, Josh Shaw and Matthew Waite, but at this moment in time I’m not sure they can handle the workload of playing every game. To bring in an experienced bowler like Duanne will take the pressure off them. He’s a proven wicket-taker, a man who is right at the top of his game and in great form at the moment.
“To be successful, particularly in championship cricket, you need to have seven or eight front-line seamers. Playing most of our cricket up north at Emerald Headingley, Scarborough and York this year, the pitches are going to offer a bit to seamers. We need strength and depth and we’ve certainly got that now.
“We watched him bowl for Derbyshire last year, and he did really well. To sign a guy who is right at the top of his game, in his prime is fantastic, and he will fit in really well.”
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