Posted by: nestaquin | April 7, 2008

Who needs the IPL? I have a Brontosaurus!

It is rumoured that his sweat has the unmistakable aroma of frangipani, and that his pheromone laden ambrosial fragrance causes even the most acute, curvaceous Scandinavian princess to grant his every whim. His identity is a well kept secret known only to his closest confidantes, MI5 and naturally umpire Dickie Bird, and it is with some surprise and a considerable amount of delight that the man that never sleeps, The Tooting Trumpet, is once again sharing his thoughts at 99.94.

The English Domestic Season 2008: Preview

The extraordinary brontosaurus (that’s the bloated, prehistoric dinosaur with the tiny brain) that is the English domestic cricket season lumbers into life on April 10 with the traditional curtain-raiser at Lord’s where MCC face reigning County Champions Sussex in front of one man wearing an egg and tomato tie who was locked in last September and hasn’t found his way out yet. There’s a round of university matches to allow journeymen pros to feel like Virender Sehwag for a few days, before the real stuff starts on 16 April (expect snow over Northern Europe).

The English First Class competition is split into two divisions, with Lancashire favourites to lift the First Division crown this year, having come heartbreakingly close on the last afternoon in 2007. History is against Lanky who last won the title outright a mere 74 years ago. Sussex (with the incredibly prolific Mushtaq Ahmed back for yet another season and aiming for 2000 senior wickets) share second favouritism with Durham. The Trumpet suggests that a Flintoff-inspired Lancashire might just break the hoodoo this year, but advises a little saver on Somerset who have the captain, pitch and batting order to set up wins if their bowlers can take the 20 wickets. In the Second Division, Ed Smith’s Middlesex should romp to promotion accompanied by Essex and one of the Midlands Ws, Worcestershire or Warwickshire.

Believe it or not, there are three other domestic competitions: the Friends Provident Trophy, played over 50 overs, with a ludicrous combination of league fixtures and knockout phases spread over a mere 118 days; the Pro40, played over 40 overs (no-one knows why) in two divisions (which aren’t the same two divisions as the County Championship) getting started just in time for football to swamp sports coverage; and the Twenty20 Cup, which I shall preview separately come mid-summer.

Despite all that, who needs the IPL when the English domestic cricket fan can see players like: Mahela Jayawardene; Chris Rogers; Shivnarine Chanderpaul; Neil McKenzie; Albie Morkel; Michael Di Venuto; Danish Kaneria; Jason Gillespie (probably); Sean Ervine; Shane Watson; Azhar Mahmood; Yasir Arafat; Stuart Law; Brad Hodge; Andrew Flintoff; Ashley Noffke; Nicky Boje; Lance Klusener; David Hussey; Adam Voges; Justin Langer; Marcus Trescothick; Mushtaq Ahmed; Monde Zondecki; Sanath Jayasuriya; Fidel Edwards; Simon Jones; Darren Gough; Morne Morkel; Jacques Rudolph. And, despite the limit of just one overseas player per county, you can expect more see stars in the English domestic game as the season progresses.

English county cricket, for all its obvious flaws, is still the second best domestic game in the world: the number of Aussies who have used it as a stepping stone to the Test arena shows that. Let’s get it on!

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Responses

  1. Is the restriction of overseas players to give more locals, that is Europeans as I understand it, more opportunity?

    Also, is this a step backward for the County game or a necessary alteration to improve England’s cricketing depth?

  2. This gives some idea of the confusion over different categories of players in English cricket http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/england/content/story/342292.html

    The one overseas player rule was brought in to counteract the impact of Kolpak players (who are not just European, but from any country with whom the UK has a trading agreement – hence SA, WI and, I think, Aussies and Kiwis).

    I’ve never bought into it. England has 18 counties which offers 18×11 = 198 playing slots + squad players + ECB contracted players. There’s enough opportunity to allow the international aspirants to come through.

    The situation is still not clear. As the County Championship season draws closer, I shall revisit the structure of the English County game in a more focussed post.

    Just one point before then though – England has been a trading, imperial, now largely post-imperial power for centuries. That nationality is vague here is a great strength of our country as well as a great weakness. When my kids’ friends are collected after a birthday party, parents will talk to kids in Urdu, Turkish, Gujerati, Polish, Tamil, French and Japanese, leaving my kids to argue with their mother in Swedish! Of course, everyone speaks English to the dumb Englishman!

  3. Australians can’t play as Kolpaks unless they have a passport from a Kolpak country (Dirk Nannes I think has a Dutch passport). Otherwise there would be even greater hordes of Australians playing county cricket.

    I agree with the Trumpet that with 18 teams, the talented young Englishmen ought to be able to get into first-class cricket, even if half of the county sides are made up of foreigners.

  4. David – thanks for that clarification. I’ll need to do a bit of research before the post I promise above!

  5. I’m no wiser after reading the article at that link. In fact I am more confused!

    Regardless of who is eligble and who is not, what is the reasoning behind the new one overseas player restriction? Just what does the ECB want to achieve?

    Your explanation that the ECB wants to halt overseas players seems contradictory after I read the link.

    It seems almost anyone is eligible.

  6. Nesta – the link is utterly confusing I agree.

    Essentially, my view is that the ECB want two non-England qualified players per county / team. Legally, they cannot restrict EU and Kolpak players, so three or so seasons ago, they asked for a voluntary limit on Kolpaks. Ho! Ho! Ho!

    So they now go for Kolpaks + one Overseas player as a compromise. The ICL certificates are a bit of a red herring – I feel the ECB are worried about being sued if they don’t explore the players’ right to a contract.

    So the ECB want 9+2, most counties want to just win even if 11+0, and the lawyers say something different again.

    Twas ever thus here.

  7. As I understand the situation:

    England doesn’t want to have its domestic game filled up with foreigners. So they limit counties to one overseas player per team. (It used to be two.)

    But by law (specificially the Kolpak ruling), counties are free to employ as many players from the EU or from countries with some trade agreement as they like. So in addition to the one overseas player, they’re allowed as many South Africans, Dutchies, Slovenians, some West Indian countries, as they can get.

    Now several years after the Kolpak ruling, some long-ignored clause seems to have resurfaced. Apparently the ECB gave themselves the right to block any Kolpak application. They’ve never tried to do so in the past, and my impression is that if they did so, then they’ll be taken to court and they will lose. Everyone seems to think that under European law, there’s no basis for not letting the professionals from Kolpak countries work in England.

  8. Thanks Dave and Toots,

    My understanding is increasing exponentially with each post. It would seem the only lasting solution for the ECB would be if England seceded from the EU!

  9. David – I’m waiting for a sport to call the bluff: specifically, to say that there is no bar to employment, but under the rules of the competition, there is a bar to fielding non-qualified players.

    There’s stuff here that’s pertinent.

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldFootballNews/idUKL28515920080328?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true

  10. Nesta – Your intro is charming and uncannily close to one or two dreams of mine. The reality, need I say, falls somewhat short.

  11. I thought the ECB was onto something when they tried to ban overseas players who had joined up with the Rebel 2020. Anything to get rid of the journeyman would be welcome.

    I would like to see an eight team Premier League based at the best grounds with a serious academy set up and a max of 2 foreigners.

    The counties on the outside can carry on a part time basis playing Friday thru Sunday. They can flood their teams with all the world stars for the 2020 season.

  12. Bush – as radical as ever, but I think you’re on to something. But it’s that Turkeys and Christmas cliche again.

  13. Good piece: title’s between Yorks, Lancs and Sussex in my view.

    Check out extensive previews of all 18 counties: http://third-umpire.blogspot.com/


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