South African spinner Simon Harmer, who now plies his trade with Essex and has established himself as the best spinner in the county circuit, has stated that he'd love to play Test cricket for England. Harmer represented South Africa in five tests, before taking a Kolpak deal in 2017.
South African cricket and the Kolpak controversy has gone hand-in-hand over the course of the last five years, with several players - including the likes of Rilee Rossouw, Kyle Abbott, Dane Vilas, Heino Kuhn, David Wiese and more recently, Duanne Olivier - opting to instead ply their trade in England for several reasons. While "greed" and "money" have been the words thrown on those players as the reason for taking a Kolpak deal, a few have shed light on the matter bringing to the fore more important matters, such as the lack of job security and the naivety of the selectors.
One such player who took a Kolpak deal and has since gone on to scale impeccable heights in the County circuit is spinner Simon Harmer. Harmer, after representing South Africa in five Tests between 2015 and 2016, took a major decision of taking a Kolpak deal in 2017, all but giving away hopes of playing for the Proteas ever again. He has now shed light on his decision to take the deal.
"People from within selection didn’t want me there, so I had a feeling it was never going to happen again. I was 25-26 and I needed to make a decision over where the future was going to take me and how South African cricket was going," Harmer told Daily Mail.
"It wasn’t an optimistic outlook in my opinion and if I was going to play cricket for as long as I could, I had to consider playing as a Kolpak in the UK. I had to do well and it was a gamble, but the security lay here," he added.
The quota policy of South Africa - which requires at least five players of colour to be featured in the XI - has also played a pivotal role in driving players towards Kolpak deals and Harmer believes that it sometimes puts added pressure on the players to deliver, meaning they needed to outperform themselves more often than not to keep their place in the XI intact.
"I don’t have an issue with transformation and it’s part of South African sport,’ says Harmer. ‘It’s where we are as a nation and it needs to happen, but as far as I was aware there needed to be five players of colour in the 11, so it did play a part in my situation.
"But if I’d taken 40 wickets in my five Tests, I would have taken that out of the equation. Ultimately it just means you need to be better to get an opportunity or keep your place," he said.
The 30-year-old has since come leaps and bounds in the county circuit, claiming more than 200 first-class wickets while also becoming the captain of Essex. This season, he has picked an astonishing 78 wickets from just 13 matches in red-ball, while also leading his team to their maiden T20 Blast title, starring with both bat and ball on the Finals day. Harmer has now revealed that he would love to play Test cricket for England some day, although there are quite a few implications surrounding it.
"I’d love to play for England. I think I’ve shown I have the potential, ability and work ethic to play international cricket again. I’ve certainly proved it to myself because you do wonder if you are good enough. I feel I am now, but how can I proclaim to be the best off-spinner in the world when I’m not competing on the international stage? Perhaps one day in the future that could change.
"There are quite a lot of hoops I’d need to jump through. The ECB would have to deal with the backlash, repercussions and consequences of selecting somebody who has played five Tests for South Africa. But I feel it would be a way of repaying the faith English cricket has shown in me by allowing me to play here. The rules have already been changed to benefit Jofra and allow him to fit into England’s World Cup plans, so if they did want me to get involved they would need to do that again and bend the rules accordingly," he signed off.