In cricket, kolpak players have become the new normal. International players from other countries, especially South Africa, take immediate international retirement for a contract in plying their trade in England’s county cricket. But what and when did this kolpak thingy begin?
Way back in 2003, a Slovakian handball player named Maros Kolpak wanted to play for a German second divison club. But since Slovakia was not part of then European Union then, he was ineligible to do so. Kolpak did not give up and took the issue to court. Surprisingly the verdict was in favour of him and it stated that citizens that signed the European Union Association Agreement had the right to work and play sport in a particular EU country.
Soon afterward, the Kolpak ruling has been exercised in other sports including cricket; mainly in county cricket. There have been quite a long list of players that have signed Kolpak deals and in this particular post, we will be looking at the greatest kolpak XI ever.
P.S: Since a majority of the Kolpak players are South Africans, I have tried my best to include players from other countries as well.
Greatest Kolpak XI Ever?
The below playing XI will perhaps have different views from different views, but remember, it’s the greatest Kolpak playing XI according to me. Anyway, here you go!
#1. Neil McKenzie
For one of my opening slots, I have picked Neil McKenzie. The South African international, is famously known for this world record opening stand of 415 with Graeme Smith in a test match against Bangladesh. His county stint began in 2007 for Somerset. The following year, he swtiched counties and played for Durham. It was only in 2010 when he signed for Hampshire that he had his golden years as a Kolpak player. In one of the games for Hampshire, McKenzie smacked his highest List A score of 237 runs and was invloved in a whopping 523-run partnership with teammate Michael Carberry (who later represented England at the highest level).
#2. Rilee Rossouw
For the other openers slot, it is very hard to look past someone of Rilee Rossouw’s calibre. The swashbuckling and hard hitting left hander from South Africa makes the cut. After struggling to cement his place in the national team, Rossouw decided to ply his trade elsewhere. As luck would have it, Hampshire came knocking in 2017. A golden opportunity, and Rossouw grabbed it with both hands. Since then, Rossouw has been representing Hampshire and at the same time, being invloved in other T20 leagues across the globe.
#3. Faf Du Plessis
Before becoming the player that he is now known for, Faf du Plessis was a Kolpak player for county side Lancashire. Initially signed up for a 6-month contract in 2008, Du Plessis impressed the coaches with good performances. He was rewarded with a three-year contract extension with the county. Du Plessis did well with both bat and in the field, but once his contract ran out, he decided to not renew it. One of the major reasons was being selected in the 30-member preliminary squad for the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup.
#4. Shivnarine Chanderpaul
One of the pioneers of West Indian cricket, Shivnarine Chanderpaul had a fruitful career for the national side that spanned over two decades. Within that time frame, the left hander had county stints with Durham (2007-09), Lancashire (2010), Warwickshire (2011), and Derbyshire (2013-14). Post retirement in 2017, Chanderpaul finally signed a kolpak deal with Lancashire. In that very year, his return to Lancashire saw him score heavy runs including three centuries. After a successful stint, the Guyanese extended his contract for another year. Now, in the 40’s, Chanderpaul still wishes to represent his native club Guyana.
#5. Brendan Taylor
Arguably the most reliable and established batsman Zimbabwe has ever produced, Brendan Taylor has had many fond memories as an International player. The T20 win over Australia comes to mind as well as the back-to-back centuries in a World Cup edition, and not to forget the twin Test centuries in a single Test, which he achieved not once but twice. With so many notable performances, Taylor decided to sign a kolpak deal with Nottinghamshire after the 2015 World Cup, and while doing so, announced his International retirement. Taylor signed a three-year deal, and had a fruitful time with Nottinghamshire wherein the club did the double by winning the T20 compteition as well as the One Day event as well. After three years with the club, Brendan decided to rejoin the national team and is presently one of the key members of the Zimbabwe national cricket team.
#6. Colin Ingram
After 31 ODI and 9 T20I appearances, Colin Ingram failed to cement his place in the national side. To find a way out and to continue to play the game, Ingram signed an initial three-year kolpak deal with Glamorgan; officially closing the door for an International return. In 2015, Ingram had a very successful season with the bat, amassing 405 runs in just 8 games at a healthy average of 81, including four scores beyond the 50-run mark. He also had a decent championship season scoring close to one thousand runs. In 2018, Ingram extended his contract with Glamorgan, and is currently still representing the Welsh county.
#7. Wayne Parnell
A fiery left arm quickie who can contribute with the bat lower down the order, Wayne Parnell was a valuable player for South Africa. And in the World T20 in 2009, he ran away with the golden ball award for being the highest wicket taker in the tournament with 13 scalps. Struggling to find a permanent spot in the national side, Parnell opted to play domestic cricket in England. He first represented in Kent, then Sussex, then Glamorgan, then back to Kent. Finally in 2018, it was announced that he signed a kolpak deal with Worcestershire; thus ending his international career. He has been an integral part of Worcestershire and has already won quite a few major honours with the club.
#8. Simon Harmer
Despite playing only 5 international (Test) matches for South Africa, it is really hard to look past this offie. After signing a kolpak deal in 2017 for the Essex Eagles, Simon Harmer has had a dream run with the club. Not only has the South African managed to take wickets in bulk, but he has also managed to score crucial runs for the team. Moreover, he was handed the T20 captaincy in 2019. His crucial wickets and runs on finals day helped Essex win their maiden T20 competition. Also, not to forget, Harmer’s performances in the championship helped his county win two championship titles in three seasons.
#9. Kyle Abbott
A fine right arm swing bowler for South Africa, Kyle Abbott had a dream Test debut wherein he was adjudged the man of the match. Good performances helped him earn his ODI cap as well. But with the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Vernon Philander in the mix, it was hard for Abbott to punch above them all. Hence, after a Test series against Sri Lanka in 2017, Kyle Abbott decided to end his international career by signing a kolpak deal with Hampshire. Ever since his kolpak deal, Kyle Abbott has been putting in some fine performances for his county club and it seems as though Abbott will be with the club for years to come.
#10. Morne Morkel
An interal and vital cog in South Africa’s Test and ODI squad for many years, Morne Morkel enjoyed life as an International cricket player for South Africa. With 309 Test wickets and 188 ODI wickets, Morne had a wonderful 13-year tenure as the highest level. After his international retirement in 2018, Morne Morkel signed a kolpak deal with Surrey. With good performances in county cricket, Morne is still part of Surrey County Cricket Club; the county he helped win the County Championship in 2018 (after a span of 16 long years).
#11. Claude Henderson
A left arm spinner, Claude Henderson represented South Africa 11 times (7 Tests and 4 ODI’s). Although a short international career, Henderson made it big in county cricket when he became the first ever player to sign a kolpak deal in 2004 for Leicestershire. A stint spanning close to a decade, Henderson had many ups and down as a Leicestershire player. He was part of many vital victories for his club before signing off in 2013 (at the age of 41) after playing his final county game against Gloucestershire.
Is this your greatest kolpak XI ever? If not, do let me know in the comments below. Would love to hear your greatest kolpak playing XI!
Stay safe, and take care!