Duanne Olivier: At least he doesn’t call England ‘we’ (yet)
It is wrong to consider Olivier opting to abandon his erstwhile team an act of anti-patriotism ... but still
Duanne Olivier is a nice kid; properly brought up in that regte egte Afrikaans way. So it’s not difficult to imagine him deferring to good manners when he tried to explain to the man from the not so nice Daily Mail, in a piece published on Wednesday, why he didn’t factor his chances of playing in the World Cup into his decision to sign a Kolpak deal with Yorkshire.
“I made my ODI debut only this year, and over those couple of games I think they were seeing what I could offer,” Olivier was quoted as saying. “Personally, 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 what were 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.”
The logic of Olivier’s argument is sound. Would he be picked for the World Cup ahead of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi or Dale Steyn? No. Or a newbie like Anrich Nortjé? Unlikely. Would he pick himself ahead of any of them? By the sound of him, probably not.
But a four-letter word that is distinctly impolite, in terms of modern team dynamics, lurks in Olivier’s attributed comments; a word loaded with the perspicacity of Andile Phehlukwayo’s slower bouncer.
“ … they were seeing what I could offer …”
“ … they have enough bowlers …”
“They”? Less than a month ago, when Olivier bowled what became his last deliveries for SA, in the second Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park, that would have been a firm and proud “We”.
Supporters talking about teams they say they will support forever invariably refer to them as “we”, never mind that they never have and never will play for those sides. Former players turned commentators, too, slip easily into “we” and are just as easily forgiven the slip by broadcasters who should know better. Reporters who fall prey to “we” when discussing the teams they cover are – or should be – derided as fans with laptops.
As of a few weeks ago Olivier is indeed a former player, and so entitled to use the unroyal “they”. But it will sting many who remain, for now, his compatriots that he has chosen to do so with the wound of his leaving still raw.
It is wrong to consider Olivier opting to abandon his erstwhile team an act of anti-patriotism. But there can be no denying South Africans their unhappiness over what he has done – which is, simply, to change jobs. And good luck conveying that truth effectively to people who can’t say “Proteas” without also saying “we”.
Those people should suspend their criticism for a moment to wonder what they would do were they to be presented with Olivier’s choice, and that’s apart from reconsidering his commitment to living in a country that is struggling – and failing – to keep the lights on.
He was offered exponentially more money by a company respected throughout the global cricket industry for knowing what they’re doing and for doing it properly – Yorkshire have won the championship 33 times, including one shared title, and have done so twice in the past five years.
Would you rather work for them or for the muppets who made a mess of establishing their own T20 tournament – as close as cricket gets to organising a piss-up in a brewery – whose ideas of corporate governance are raising eyebrows and not in a good way, who are alienating their employees, and who have projected a loss of more than R600m for the next four years?
In short, would you rather work for British Gas or Eskom? Tough choice. Not. The thrust of the Daily Mail’s piece on Olivier was that he harboured a desire to play for England once he had served his three-year qualification period, when he will be a still eminently marketable 29. But don’t take everything you read at face value, sports lovers. Particularly if you read it in the tabloids.
Here’s how this works …
The question Olivier would have been asked probably was something like: “Are you comfortable with not playing international cricket, and do you think you might one day return to that level with England?”
And here’s his actual answer, as quoted: “I accept that my Test career is over for SA but if I do well, hopefully in the future, I can play for England … 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 and just doing well for them.”
A reporter writing for an English newspaper was bound to ask English cricket’s most high-profile recent signing if he wanted to earn an England cap. Just as the player being interviewed couldn’t have answered in any other way than Olivier did.
At least he doesn’t put “England” and “we” into the same sentence. Not yet, anyway.