How foreign imports sabotaged English cricket

Robert Henderson

The  governing body of English cricket the ECB  is concerned about the number of foreign players playing in English cricket.  So is David Letherdale, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

“It is hugely disappointing that some counties have felt the need to sign players as Kolpaks or on EU passports instead of developing and producing home-grown players themselves for the future benefit of English cricket. We are concerned that the number appears to have risen again in recent months. It is a situation that gives us cause for concern and one that we will continue to monitor.”

The deterioration in the  England cricket side can be dated  from 1969 when  the residential  qualification rule was dropped and foreigners came into county cricket in numbers.  Although it took a decade or so after 1969 for the full effects to be felt the 1980s saw the damage it had done  becoming apparent as the England team became more and more  restricted to a small pool of players . Eventually in the  1980s the selectors turned to  foreign imports who  had qualified as English after less than ten years residence in England.

After the freeing up of entry to the County Championship in 1969 there was no limit to the numbers of foreign players who could come.   Restrictions were eventually placed on the number of foreign players who could play but it still meant that every county bar Yorkshire had two foreign imports who normally  played regularly .  This meant that  34 or so places were barred to English players, There were also a few foreign players who came with  EU passports and more who arrived with British passports or the right to one because of one or more of their parents or grandparents was British.

The final nail in the coffin for English cricketers was the creation of  the Kolpak status in the 2000s. This allowed anyone who could claim a passport from an EU country or  from any country which had an associate relationship with the EU which included freedom  of movement to have the right to work in the UK. The countries with EU associate status include South Africa, Zimbabwe and several in the Caribbean.

The argument for foreigners

The argument for importing large numbers of foreigners into English cricket has rested on two claims both of which is false. When the residential  qualification rules were removed in  1969 it was argued that  high quality  foreign players would substantially  increase crowds particularly at  County Championship games. This never materialised as a sustained phenomenon. The arrival of a particular star such as Gary Sobers at Nottinghamshire or Barry Richards at Hampshire might result in a temporary boost in the  numbers of spectators  but it did not last.

The second claim  was that having high quality foreign players in County Cricket  would raise the standards of the English players. This argument was developed when the increase in crowds argument had become  a dead duck. It can  be comprehensively shown to be untrue.  Between the mid 1970s to the mid-1990s the general quality of foreign imports was at its highest and the imports were contracted for the whole cricket season. Many of these imports remained with the same County for years so English players had every chance to learn from them if learning was possible simply from  observing them.  Yet it was during  this time  – and particularly the 1980s and 1990s –  that  the England side was hideously  unsuccessful, indeed,  arguably the twenty years from 1980-2000 were the least successful overall for any extended period  in its history.  The truth was that  English  players learnt nothing of use from the foreign imports, either from playing with them or against them.

Since the invention of the Kolpak status  and the rise of T20 the quality of the  foreign imports has declined sharply and the  foreign players who do come often play only part of a season and rarely stay with the same clubs for years on end.

But it  was never simply  a question of  the quality of the foreigner brought into county cricket.  The problem was whether of Test quality or not the foreigners have displaced English  players in large numbers.

The problem with foreign players goes far beyond their numbers.   They tend to be  pace bowlers and upper order batsmen. These players  normally occupy the  best batting spots and their pace bowlers will generally get the new ball. Foreign bowlers of any type will also tend to get choice of ends and to be under bowled when a pitch is benign.  English players have  take the crumbs which are left after  the foreign players have been fed. It also means that there have been times in the past 50 years when the England selectors have had precious few upper order batsmen and opening bowlers to from which to choose, for example the lack of quality pace bowling in the  1980s and 1990s because so many of the foreign imports  were pace bowlers.

It is important to understand that the influx of  foreigners does not affect just the first class county first teams. Foreigners are increasingly flooding into the second elevens of  the first class counties, the minor counties and good quality club sides, in fact, any team which can pay them.

There are and have been  plenty of very promising young English cricketers over the years who have never been given an  early chance when their second team performances for first class counties  have justified it or even worse were never given an  extended run in the first team.  A, Gordon, PC McKeown, B Parker, G P Burnett, R J Bartlett,  JW Cook, A R Roberts,  JD Fitton, PJ Lewington, D M Cox. Any of those  names ring a bell? I doubt it but they were all very successful second eleven players who have played since the 1969 influx of foreigners  but who never got a sustained chance in their respective first teams. (Details taken from the First-Class Counties Second Eleven Annual)

No other Test playing country in the cricketing world opens its first class domestic competition to huge numbers of foreigners. Neither should we.

The extent of the current infestation of foreigners

The 2017 County Championship season has just begun. In the first round of matches begun on 7 April 2017 the foreign component was as follows:

There were  6 matches comprising 12 teams of 11 players   = 132 players in total

43 of these players were born outside  the British Isles

This means 33% of players in this round of county  matches were not born in the British Isles

The counties which did not play in this round of matches are Derbyshire, Durham, Middlesex, Somerset, Sussex, Worcestershire. If they have the same proportion  of  foreign born players on average as the 12 counties which played , that would mean  another 22 foreign players to add to the 43 making a total of 65  players out of possible 216  players (12 x11) from the 18 counties.

Analysis by County of the foreign born players in the six matches played commencing 7 April 2017

Essex:  RN ten Doeschate, SR Harmer, N Wagner (3)

Glamorgan:  B Cooke,  CAJ Meschede, M de Lange, JA Rudolph, N J Selman, CA Ingram (6)

Gloucs:  CT Bancroft,  GL van Buuren (2)

Hants:   RR Rossouw, SM Ervine, , KJ Abbott, GK Berg, BTJ Wheal, FH Edwards (6)

Kent:   AP Rouse,  ME Claydon (2)

Lancs:  S Chanderpaul, DJ Vilas, R McLaren, KM Jarvis (4)

Leics:  CJ McKay, PJ Horton, CN Ackermann, MJ Cosgrove (4)

Northants:  RE Levi, SP Crook,  RK Kleinveldt (3)

Notts: MJ Lumb,  MH Wessels, SR Patel,  JL Pattinson (4)

Surrey: KC Sangakkara,  SM Curran, TK Curran, JW Dernbach (4)

Warks: IJL Trott, SR Hain, TR Ambrose†,  JS Patel  (4)

Yorks:  PSP Handscomb, GS Ballance, Azeem Rafiq, (3)

It is also likely that there are foreign players missing from the early  Championship games as they complete other cricketing obligations in  foreign T20 tournaments or for their national sides.

Analysis of  the  role(s) these cricketers play

The groups is  very heavily slanted towards upper order batsmen and pace bowlers

Batsmen (18)

JA Rudolph, N J Selman, CA Ingram, CT Bancroft, RR Rossouw, S Chanderpaul, , PJ Horton, CN Ackermann, MJ Cosgrove, MJ Lumb, MH Wessels, RE Levi, KC Sangakkara, IJL Trott,   SR Hain, PSP Handscomb,  GS Ballance

Wicket keepers   (3)

B Cooke*, A P Rouse*, TR Ambrose*

Pace Bowlers (18)

RN ten Doeschate*  CAJ Meschede*, M de Lange,  N Wagner, SM Ervine*,  KJ Abbott,  GK Berg*, BTJ Wheal, FH Edwards, ME Claydon, R McLaren*, KM Jarvis, CJ McKay, SP Crook*,  RK Kleinveldt*, JL Pattinson,  TK Curran*,  JW Dernbach

 Spin Bowlers (4)

SR Harmer*,  GL van Buuren*, JS Patel*,  Azeem Rafiq*

* Denotes any player other than a specialist batsman is a competent batsman

Analysis of players by country of birth

Australia:  PJ Horton,  MJ Cosgrove,   SR Hain, PSP Handscomb,  CT Bancroft,  N J Selman , TR Ambrose, ME Claydon, CJ McKay, SP Crook*, JL Pattinson  (11)

New Zealand:  JS Patel*,

South Africa:  JA Rudolph,  CA Ingram,  RR Rossouw, , CN Ackermann,  MJ Lumb, MH Wessels, RE Levi, IJL Trott,  B Cooke*,  CAJ Meschede*, M de Lange,  N Wagner,   KJ Abbott,  GK Berg*, BTJ Wheal, R McLaren, RK Kleinveldt*, TK Curran*,  JW Dernbach, SR Harmer*,  GL van Buuren* (21)

West Indies: FH Edwards

India :  None

Pakistan:  Azeem Rafiq*

Sr Lanka KC: Sangakkara

Zimbabwe:  GS Balance, A P Rouse*, SM Ervine*, KM Jarvis (4)

Bangladesh: None

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6 Responses to How foreign imports sabotaged English cricket

  1. Jack Thomas says:

    “infestation of foreigners ” has become the norm for our country, particularly those who follow an alien religion. Cricket is but one of many apsects of our lives being taken over by the invader with the cooperation, even intent, of our globalist puppet government.

  2. J E HOLMES says:

    I feel priveleged to have watched outstanding foreign imports of the calibre of Procter and barry Richards

    • If you don’t understand that as a matter of simple prudence preference should always be given to your own people you are missing a vital part of what it is to be a social animal, namely, protecting your own group.

  3. Gerald Barker says:

    Didn’t the Kolpak ruling get watered down so that restrictions could be put in place?

    Secondly, there were many other reasons for the failures of England 1980-2000 – absurdly inconsistent selection, poor management, the rise and rise of football and other pursuits at cricket’s expense being a few examples.

    • Attempts have been made to reduce Kolpaks including action by the ECB to incentivise counties to play Englishmen. However, as can be seen by their current numbers it has had precious little effect.

      As for other reasons for England’s failure, it was the diminution in the number of English players which led to the employment of many foreigners by England until the England side was English only in name.

      • Gerald Barker says:

        I don’t think you can have it both ways. Elsewhere you argue that foreigners can’t give their all for England, and you’ve even extended that to include ethnic minorities who were born here. Here you argue that foreigners in county cricket decimate the national game and cite the poor team 1980-2000 in support. But England since 2000 have generally performed much better, only losing one Ashes home series, winning one away Ashes etc. They began that recovery thanks to Duncan Fletcher and Nasssr Hussain, who finally put an end to the losing culture and rank incompetence of the likes of Keith Fletcher and David Lloyd. Kevin Pietersen played some of the best English innings since the war. You can’t really have it both ways.

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