Willis: Hick and Ramprakash ‘clogging up county cricket’

Bob Willis is never short of opinions. Not all of them are conventional or even particularly thought through, but writing in the latest issue of The Wisden Cricketer he has slammed just about everyone. Ageing players such as Graeme Hick, Mark Ramprakash and Dominic Cork are wasting the money the ECB “create” through their revenue streams, thus impacting on the next generation of England stars.

I don’t have much of an issue with these three, or indeed for any ageing former England player – so long as they perform and contribute to the team. Ramprakash continues to be as prolific a batsman as any – Hick less so, but nevertheless is a reassuring face in a brittle Worcestershire line-up. If their frail frames falter, then goodnight – but so long as they’re producing the goods, their experience is invaluable to younger players.

The Kolpak issue is altogether different, and I suppose I’m contradicting myself if I can allow old English players to play rather than old non-England-qualified Greek/Australian players. But there must be some form of regulation (which, admittedly, comes into force next year) for the selection of third-grade Kolpakians. It’s out of control and impeding the progress of young English talent.

Willis is really off on one, which is always enjoyable to read rather than listen to. Cricinfo has a synopsis and we’ll have the piece up either this weekend or next. Offer your thoughts below.

Three lions of South Africa

First there was Kevin Pietersen. Then a growing army of South Africans, fed up with their lot (and what a lot…), joined him over here as part of a growing band of Kolpakians. Allan Donald was soon poached – and now Jonty Rhodes is next. What ever is going on in South African cricket?

I think it’s great having Donald and Rhodes over here. I don’t believe a foreign coach is necessarily a bad thing, but you do have to wonder how and why South Africa are unable to employ such high-profile former players.

“As with the rest of the support team we want the right person to do that job,” said England coach Peter Moores. “When we’ve got the right bloke we can look to bring him in and see how he goes. We have seen that in other specialist positions for coaches.

“We are talking about people who could make a genuine difference to international performances – and they don’t always grow on trees. If we get a fielding coach we want him to influence fielding in England not just at England level.”

From Cricinfo.

Kolpak Pietersen takes 7-10

No, not that Pietersen – not Kevin, but Charl. A Kolpak player, one of about 590 Northamptonshire have employed this year, has blown aware Denmark by taking 7-10. Who says English Cricket standards aren’t improving! :)

ECB cuts down on “The Kolpak” influx

Counties will receive financial bonuses for producing English players, announced the ECB today, in their “Building Partnerships” scheme. In other words, a county such as Northamptonshire would be severely penalised in comparison to Glamorgan – the only county on the circuit not to recruit a single Kolpak player. This is excellent news – I’ve written lots on the Kolpak issue recently (Kolpak tag), and it’s relieving to finally have an ECB that is proactive. Chief Executive David Collier – who took over from Tim Lamb last year – has been very quiet since his appointment, today’s statement being his first major influence on the game. Let us hope that today’s move is a sign Collier will be a respected figure in English cricket circles in the future.

There’s much more, besides the Kolpak issue, all available at the ECB, including this very snazzy-but-vague diagram:

ECB moves to curtail non-English influx

In the past 5 years, a slow trickle of foreign players have made use of a European ruling known as Kolpak to play county cricket – none of them eligible to play for the English national game. At last, Lord’s appears to have cottoned onto this and next month are expected to announce performance-related pay scheme. The figures, in this Mirror article, are startling:

This summer, no fewer than 70 first-class county cricketers will NOT be eligible to play for England – around 20 per cent of the combined playing staffs.

I hadn’t realised it had reached 20% – that’s absolutely disgraceful. Soon though, counties like Notts (who have 7 players who are NOT eligible to play for England) won’t receive their payout from Lord’s and will possibly face bankruptcy, unless they start picking English and Welsh players.

My main problem is obvious: they’re not using young, English talent. I don’t fully understand why, either, because it must be cheaper for counties to sign a promising 17 year-old than a 28 year-old foreigner. That 17 year old prospect could eventually become a national star, which would then drive back revenue to the club and so on. So – great news.

Update: better article at The Telegraph

England’s ridiculous scheduling for the summer

The excellent journalist, Scyld Berry (pronounced, I think, “Shild” – not “Skilled”. Although he is, very, skilled) writes the first (of many no dout) regarding the ECB, Sky/satellite TV and this summer’s Ashes.

Before the main event of Australia, we fans must suffer the ignominy of watching Bangladesh; a 2 Test series to honour our playing an Asian country, and which serves as scant preparation for England’s most important Test series since the last Ashes. I am unashamedly not in favour of minnows playing against the top teams of International cricket; it’s nothing but a waste of time for all involved (for what it’s worth, I’m of the opinion that if their standard fails to improve, there should be an international secondary division where minnows play eachother until such time as they reach a reasonable level of skill.) I don’t want to talk about that now, though.

In their infinite wisdom, the ECB – an organisation even more desperate to appear modern than Blair and his Labour party, and almost equally inept in carrying it out – have squashed The Ashes into the second-half of the summer. In short, this means back-to-back Tests – an unnecessary situation given the length of an English summer, and one which suits neither host or opposition.

This is all in the name of Satellite television, as Scyld points out:

The reason why our traditional Ashes summer has been mutilated is so that Sky can fill the football off-season with loads of one-day cricket, and the ECB – the first-class counties in all but name – have just been happy to take the money. The one point to be made for the next TV deal, aside from the money, is that starting next summer we just might have a balanced fixture list back.

Aside from the scheduling, he goes onto say how foreign players – in particular Australians – have been welcomed in with open arms. I have less of a problem with Australians playing here than I do with the “Kolpak regime.” However; the ECB and counties have played host to almost the entire Australian national squad. Off the top of my head, I can think of only Gilchrist and Gillespie and Lee who haven’t played county cricket. As such, they know the conditions and know how to bowl to us. Gone are the days of secrecy, suprise pitches and the fear of the unknown. God, the ECB is blinder than Blunkett…

The accompanying table shows how English cricket has opened its gates and invited the Trojan horse within its walls. Not just a single horse either. Hampshire on their own last season invited just about the entire Trojan cavalry inside when they accommodated Shane Warne, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson, who could be selected for the final place in the Australian Test party on Monday ahead of Nathan Bracken or Shaun Tait.

Read on here

Another South African joins England

Martin van Jaasveld, who played for South Africa against England only 7 or 8 weeks ago, has retired from International cricket to play for Kent in England, under the “Kolpak” ruling.

“Having understood that my future international prospects might be limited, I needed to weigh up my options and make a decision that was in the best interests of my long-term future,” he explained.

He joins Murray Goodwin who returns to Sussex, but this time under the bloody Kolpak ruling. So both these players are now regarded as non-overseas players – both will no doubt demand reasonable salaries, money which could have been used to fund grass-roots cricket and younger players. And, such is English cricket’s obsession with overseas players, that both these players will no doubt be joined by their compatriotes from their own bloody countries!

Ridiculous. Can’t find a paper on KolKrap, but this could threaten the future of the English game unless some limitations are put in place. Soon.