At the risk of being in a minority of one, I’m a little astonished by some of the player values in the Indian Premier League auctions, scheduled for this weekend. They highlight quite nicely the difficulties faced by John Morris and his counterparts in attracting overseas players of note, with an array of staggering reserve prices.
$200K for Steve Smith of Australia? He has obvious potential, but alarming technical deficiencies for an international player. How about $400K for Shaun Marsh? Again, he’s a decent cricketer but not an international regular and his first-class averages (in the mid 30s) suggest that he’s not really top drawer. James Hopes is another – a fair player, but is he worth $200K? Alternatively, you could sign Brian Lara, who retired four years ago, for $400K, or Sanath Jayasuriya, who based on his form for Worcestershire last year probably should have done, for $200K. Extraordinary..
Even Wasim Jaffer, who I suggested as a Derbyshire possible, is rated at $100,000. If he gets that for a bit of ‘thrash and giggle’ cricket, would he even consider a county stint? Take a look at the line up and see how many players are listed at $100,000 or more:
Such figures confirm why I recently suggested that Derbyshire would need to aim at the next tier down. Given that only South Africans and New Zealanders are available for most of the summer, a cursory glance shows all their best players are available at a MINIMUM reserve price of $300K. Do you still think we could afford them?
There are still bargains, assuming no competition and a commensurate price hike. Mark Cosgrove, Phil Jaques and Andrew McDonald are all ranked at $50K, all representing decent business. Nathan Hauritz, rated by England but not Australia, isn’t involved at all and looks an increasingly astute signing for a county. He bowls tight lines, spins it and is scoring runs for fun at present in Australia. He would also appear to be available for the full season, making him close to an endangered species…
On the local front, Wes Durston is ranked at $50K and Greg Smith at $20K, the latter the same value as Travis Birt. Hmmm…maybe they’re about right. Wes did well for Somerset in India last winter and might be remembered as a dynamic player, whereas Greg is an unknown out there. Good luck to both of them, though from a selfish point of view I hope there’s no takers or we’re two good players down until June.
The availability of these rewards makes county stints an unnecessary chore for many players. For those who suggest John Morris goes out and signs big names X or Y, just accept that he can’t. While these are reserve prices that may or may not be met, they are indicative of the sums being sought that are way outside the compass of most county sides.
Forget millionaires on the committee too. The difference between what we have and what players want could be up to £200,000. Why should anyone be expected to fund that level of shortfall on an annual basis? For that matter, who would? Rod Bransgrove has ploughed a lot of cash into Hampshire, but the best he could come up with for their T20 last year was Australian Dan Christian, an all-rounder of ability but far from the finished article (yours for $50K in the IPL, incidentally…)
The irony is, of course, that there are plenty of lesser known players who could do a fine job in the county game, but their lack of international experience means they would not get a work permit as things stand. South African Francois du Plessis or Australian Michael Klinger would be ideal, but the days when such players came and enhanced their reputation in the county game are long gone.
Perhaps the regulations need to be changed again. If there’s no means of luring the big names through lack of finance and a surfeit of counter attractions, maybe we need to allow a little more leeway in the eligibility criteria?
I know that, like Miss Jean Brodie, the English cricket authorities want to attract the crème de la crème, but it isn’t working and won’t as things stand. I’m equally aware that every ‘foreigner’ takes the place of a young British player, but there’s a balancing act in fielding people who will attract the crowds. Such players may not be big names, but they would bring a different perspective, mindset and skillset and might just capture the imagination, as well as winning a few matches.
Under the current criteria, we’d never have seen Chris Wilkins at Derbyshire, one of the most exciting batsmen I’ve seen. You didn’t stay in the bar when he walked out and you glanced at a magazine at your peril. If you did, you risked missing a booming straight drive that cleared the sightscreen by yards, or a pull that cleared deep mid-wicket with greater ease than my daughter lobbed chocolates across the living room to me in recent days. Yet he was a fair way from international standard at a time when his country had some extraordinary players.
Nor would we have seen Michael di Venuto, while Peter Kirsten and John Wright wouldn’t have been able to sign in the first instance either, both using county cricket as a springboard to subsequent success. All were huge favourites and gave excellent service.
Still not convinced? Look elsewhere and see what impact relative unknowns such as Keith Boyce, John Shepherd, Brian Davison, Clive Rice and Glenn Turner had on their adopted counties and how crowds reacted to them.
Given an opportunity to see their like again, how many would disapprove?
Why not vote in this week’s poll and we’ll find out.