The expanding popularity of franchise-based Twenty20 cricket leagues has been in the headlines for sometimes now. Given the fact that players are signing lucrative contracts at the expense of representing his nation is really an opener for the governing body and the cricket boards.
In the last one year or so, South Africa have lost quite a few cricketers to Kolpak deal for English county teams. Recently, the towering Proteas speedster Morne Morkel took premature retirement from international cricket and opted to play for Surrey.
In an exclusive interview with Mid-Day, South Africa’s ace batsman AB de Villiers expressed his viewpoint on the same matter, saying that a cricketer is a professional sportsman and has the power to decide what he can do.
“A player is a professional sportsman at the end of the day. He's got the power to decide where he wants to play and what he wants to do with his career. Certainly, for me what comes first is to play for my country. I've done that for 14 years. If someday, the time comes to play somewhere else, then I'll do it. It's entirely my decision and that's the way it should be,” De Villiers quoted.
When asked how to curb the Kolpak deals so that South Africa stop losing quality players in future, AB said: “It's never great to lose players, but if our T20 tournament comes through, the Global T20 league, then that will help a lot to keep the players there.”
De Villiers, who has featured in all 11 seasons of the Indian Premier League besides playing for Barbados Tridents in the 2016 Caribbean Premier League, also stated that IPL is the best T20 event in the world.
“It's the best T20 tournament in the world. It's the strongest league that I've been part of. It's closest to international cricket that you're going to get. It is why players keep coming here. Obviously, financially, it's a big pulling power, but besides that, you get to make great friends and experience different cultures. It's getting a lot harder to get into the T20. You need to be an extraordinary player to get an opportunity,” AB asserted.
On being asked if the money-spinning franchise-based cricket tournaments are hampering the traditional format, De Villiers said: “I don't think so. There's still a lot of room for Test cricket. There's room for all the formats as long as the game is played in the right way and it's competitive in all the formats, then I'm happy.”
“I can't see Test cricket going anywhere. It's too exciting and it's amazing for the players to be part of. It's the real test. Twenty20 cricket is amazing. I haven't played in T10s so I can't comment on that, but the ODIs, the World Cups, it's all exciting,” he further remarked.
Talking about the future of 50-over format, the Proteas batting genius opined: “I'm optimistic about it. I think it's still very competitive. It's in between Tests and T20s. The bowlers have enough time to make the batters work hard. The batters need to show a bit of endurance, combined with skill and then obviously explode at the end. It's a great format. The World Cup drives this format big time. Everyone looks forward to those World Cups. I can't see that format going down.”
In the ongoing Indian Premier League, RCB are placed at the seventh spot on the points table, having won only three of their 10 matches thus far.
Elaborating the reasons as to why things didn’t click for the Bangalore-based franchise, AB said: “If I knew, I would definitely apply it and turn things around, but I'm not exactly sure what's gone wrong. We're not playing as well as we wanted to and should have.”
“So yes, we need to up our game and hopefully, win the last four. There are a lot of new faces, maybe that's part of the difficulty to get the right groove going this year. If we keep the same kind of faces, then next year we'll be a lot stronger,” he concluded.