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Kolpak at Hampshire gave Abbott knowledge to impart to ‘keep SA cricket strong’

Kyle Abbott bowls for the Durban Heat against the Tshwane Spartans during the 2019 Mzansi Super League match in Centurion.
Kyle Abbott bowls for the Durban Heat against the Tshwane Spartans during the 2019 Mzansi Super League match in Centurion.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Ex-Proteas quick Kyle Abbott‚ who joined the Titans this week for the remainder of the season‚ has revealed he struggled to motivate himself to train on his own at his home in KwaZulu-Natal during the hard coronavirus-enforced lockdown.

Hampshire’s Abbott‚ who became the first Kolpak player since Brexit to come back to South Africa to play domestically when he chose to sign with the Sky Blues‚ found himself preoccupied with fishing and wildlife for almost a year and has hardly played cricket in that time.

Before the Lanka Premier League‚ the T20 tournament in Sri Lanka which ran from November 27 to December 17 where he turned out for the Jaffna Stallions in a handful of matches‚ 33-year-old Abbott had also had a run out for Hampshire against Kent in September. Those‚ however‚ were just about the only real opportunities he had to steam in and hit the deck running hard in 2020.

“For the first couple of months I was actually quite happy [to sit at home] to be quite honest‚” said Abbott in his first interaction with the media as a Titans player.

The quick bowler is available for the Titans for their Momentum One-Day Cup opener against defending champions the Dolphins that kicks off at Senwes Park on Saturday. All the matches will be played at the Potchefstroom venue in a bio-secure bubble environment.

“My career now has spanned 12 years and it is the first long break [I have had] and I was actually enjoying the time off and not feeling guilty that I was not playing or bowling or training‚” said Abbott.

As global borders were about to shut as the coronavirus rapidly spread‚ the Empangeni-born right-arm fast-medium bowler returned home at the beginning of the hard lockdown to be with his family.

The stalwart of 11 Test matches for the Proteas reflected on his idle time at home in the lockdown where‚ with no cricket to look forward to‚ the former Dolphins star said he struggled for motivation.

“It was mentally tough. I did find myself at stages incredibly unmotivated where I would sit for two to three days and just think‚ ‘Why must I run‚ why must I gym‚ why must I run‚ because there is no cricket coming up?’”

Abbott had difficulties travelling back to the UK when cricket started to return to action in England at the beginning of August due to strict rules imposed on international travel‚ and he missed a huge chunk of the Hamphire season.

Abbott‚ who joined the English club on a Kolpak deal in 2017‚ signed a new three-year contract last year.

His new deal includes a clause that he would automatically turn out as an overseas player for Hampshire once the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union was finalised. “With regards to Hampshire I still have two years left on my contract as an overseas player with them. I was fortunate enough to switch over from a Kolpak to being a straight overseas player with them.”

Abbott never really lost any sleep over the uncertainty that surrounded Brexit.

“To be quite honest the uncertainly of Kolpak [ending] did not bother me too much. I’ve got an incredibly good relationship with Hampshire‚ a very transparent relationship with them.

“The communication has been brilliant and I … have been lucky enough to put in some pretty good performances over the last three years‚ and always knew that I will be their pick for an overseas player. So that did not bother me too much.”

Abbott‚ who has taken 182 County Championship wickets at 18.63 in three years at the Ageas Bowl‚ said his time in England has improved him as a player and that he is willing to share his knowledge with the younger players at the Titans.

“I have already got stuck in helping some of the young guys like Thando Ntini. I have had some great chats with them over the last couple of days already.

“I am pretty happy and I am excited to impart some of that knowledge back into the system and hopefully see South African cricket stay strong because that’s all what we want.”

The end of Kolpak era will be a boon for South African cricket as those returning from overseas will inject the much-needed experience into the domestic system to widen the pool from which the national selectors can pick from.