Sunday, 19 July 2015

A likely look to the Cape as counties plan ahead

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Roelof van der Merwe had turned his back on South African cricket and moved to the Netherlands, where he was planning using his passport for that country to enter the county game.

Lo and behold, the player has now re-signed for Somerset, where he had a successful stint previously and will be on their staff for the next two summers.

He won't be the last, either.

The new quota system to be introduced to the South African domestic cricket will almost certainly mean that some of their players will see a career in the county game as the only way to advance their cricket prospects.

From September of this year, every South African side outside of the international arena will have to field six players of ethnic background, three of who must be of African origin. While done with the best of intentions, to further the cause of non-white cricket in the country, the repercussions for white players are obvious. Selection will not necessarily be made on the basis of talent alone, which can never be the right way forward in professional, or semi-professional sport.

If we went back to counties only being able to field players born within the county boundaries, or who had qualified there by residence, it would be rightly deemed a retrograde step. What if we further limited selection by saying that Derbyshire HAD to play six players from within the city boundaries in every game?

It is counter-productive and the only way out will be for white players who want to further their careers to seek to do so outside the country. Of course, they cannot do so willy-nilly. They must either have played the requisite number of international games, or have a European passport or the necessary ancestry to do so and not all will have this option available to them. I don't see AB or Dale Steyn heading to these shores, but some good quality players - too good to miss out  on a career - may do so.

The current rand to pound rate will be a major enticement to players and we have already seen several counties take advantage by signing players of talent who see their futures stymied by government policies and/or their age.

I fully expect more to make the move in the months ahead and would be surprised if Derbyshire were not among the interested counties. This summer we have all seen the progress made by Lancashire and Glamorgan with their Kolpak-heavy squads and we cannot be seen to bury our heads in the sand, as Yorkshire did when overseas players first emerged in the county game.

'Only Yorkshire-born players will play for Yorkshire' they said, until they realised that they were being left a long way behind the others. They waited too long and it took them many years to catch up, a lesson learned by others along the way.

The people in charge of our club are ambitious and rightly so. They will be well aware of good South African cricketers who are considering their futures and will be keen to bolster our staff this winter, quite likely with, at the very least, a batsman of talent and experience at the head of a shopping list.

Such a player has been obviously missing from our resources this year and would have made all the difference in the close T20 matches. With the club's five-year plan allowing for a 9/2 split in British/foreign players, I would be quite happy to see us bring in a quality overseas recruit, possibly even a couple, IF - and that's a big if - the right players were available.

I wouldn't want us to bring in any old passport of convenience player, certainly not one who might block the progress of, say, our current conveyor belt of talented seam bowlers. Yet a batsman of similar quality to Ashwell Prince or Alviro Petersen, players of proven class, would make a world of difference to our young side.

Much as my heart would love to see a side of English-qualified players, the reality is that if you can't beat 'em, you join 'em.

We can't and in my humble opinion won't let others strengthen while we do nothing. if proof were needed, Lancashire made 425-2 against Glamorgan today. Petersen 205 not out, Prince 154 not out. A very basic reason why they are strolling this division...


Oliver said...

I very much agree with you on bringing in talented South African players who for whatever reason aren't playing in South Africa Peakfan. In fairness, we've had one or two do rather well for us in recent years.

I'm going to strongly disagree with you on South Africa's approach though. Firstly, I don't think your analogy is really fair... limiting (part of) Derbyshire's team to people born/living in the city or even county boundaries would be much much more restrictive than quotas on ethnicity. Not least because a very large proportion of the UK population was not born/is not living in a first class county.

But more importantly, we haven't had the turbulent race relationships (to put it mildly) in recent years that South Africa has had. The parents of a 22-year-old Black South African cricketer were not even allowed to vote when he was born. This doesn't in itself necessarily justify quotas, but some things are bigger than cricket, and if South Africa thinks that quotas are in the best interests of the country then I will support them in that.

And if Derbyshire get another Prince, Petersen, or even Madsen as a result, well I could live with that...

Peakfan said...

It wasn't an accurate analogy Oliver nor was there one in this country.
I am all for increased opportunity and social conscience but selection for the wrong reason will never get my vote. Sports teams picked on anything other than talent is wrong and rather defeats the objective of striving to be the best.

Huw Lloyd said...

With the news last night that Gordon Muchall will be released by Durham at the end of the season, I would welcome such a consistent batsman through the gates at Derbyshire next year.