“IT’S been like walking into a big, happy family.”
That is how Duanne Olivier, the South African who will make his Championship debut for Yorkshire on Friday, describes his initial impressions of life at the club.
The 26-year-old pace bowler, who has joined on a three-year Kolpak deal, has quickly become a part of the furniture.
“I’m very happy being here,” he added. “Everyone’s been great – not just the players and coaches, but behind the scenes as well.”
Initial impressions of Olivier, for what they may be worth, are that he seems to fall into that category of pacemen who are ferocious on the pitch but friendly off it.
There is an almost hesitant manner, in fact, in the way that he speaks, an endearing lack of arrogance in a tall and powerful man.
There is a certain steeliness about him, too, as there would doubtless have to be given that his decision to turn his back on Test cricket with South Africa was always going to attract a maelstrom of criticism.
“There’s been a bit of controversy around that,” he said with delightful understatement.
Aye, just as there has been a bit of controversy around Brexit in t’Houses of Parliament, tha knows.
Not that Olivier has turned his back on international cricket for good.
I know there will be a few people upset about the situation, but I don’t look too much into it. I just need to play cricket as much as possible.Duane Olivier
On the contrary, the ink had barely dried on his deal at Emerald Headingley than he was declaring his ambition to one day play for England, at which point the criticism would no doubt redouble.
But ahead of the opening game against Notts at Trent Bridge, where he will share top billing with England’s Joe Root and Stuart Broad, Olivier stressed that his target is to perform well for Yorkshire as he attempts to justify the considerable reputation built by 31 wickets in five Tests last winter.
“My main focus is to play for Yorkshire,” he said. “I felt like coming here will benefit my cricketing career and maybe one day I can play for England, but there are certain rules and regulations you have to meet before you can qualify to become a citizen.
“I want to have a future here and a family here and, if I qualify for England and the call-up comes, I’ll be very happy about it. But I’m not going to look too far ahead.
“I know there will be a few people upset about the situation, but I don’t look too much into it. I just need to play cricket as much as possible.”
Olivier, who took four wickets in the practice game against the Leeds-Bradford students earlier this week, including his 400th in first-class cricket, has made no secret of the fact that his move to England gives him greater financial security. Not that it was an entirely simplistic decision.
“It was hard giving up playing Test cricket for South Africa,” he added. “I had good times there. But this was a family decision. Coming here, it’s a great club. It’s just the friends I made back home and family that you’re leaving behind, that’s the difficult thing, I guess.”
So now to the “big, happy family” at Yorkshire of which he speaks fondly, one that has been quick to embrace him on-and-off the field.
It is a family that will be spearheaded, on the bowling front at least, by Olivier himself and fellow paceman Ben Coad, with whom he is looking to strike up a formidable partnership.
Coad, a year younger and with England desires of his own, has been a key performer in the last two seasons. If those two players fire, with Olivier a ready-made replacement for the departed Jack Brooks in terms of wicket-taking power, Yorkshire should be more than capable of mounting a challenge for the title.
“I’m looking forward to trying to strike up a partnership with Ben,” said Olivier. “I think he’s been doing wonderful for the past couple of seasons and been a very good player for Yorkshire.
“For me, it’s just a case of feeding off him and seeing if we can put teams under pressure early, and, hopefully, we can challenge for a trophy if we do well. We have got a very good pace attack in general in my opinion.
“Mat Pillans bowls quickly as well, as do young guys coming through like Jared Warner, and I think as a bowling unit we have a very good squad with experienced players like Brezzy (Tim Bresnan), Patto (Steve Patterson) and young guys coming through.”