by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 1st 2013)
The Bigger Problem
There’s no doubt that overseas add to the quality of English cricket. Some of the greats played for English counties. Sir Richard Hadlee, Sir Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner to name but a few from the 70s onwards, but even now they have a role. Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Brian Lara and others have contributed too. Next season Surrey will be captained by South African skipper Graeme Smith.
The issue as former England captain Andrew Strauss believes is quality. “If they’re sufficient quality,” he said. “I don’t think there are enough out there that would want to now with IPL [Indian Premier League] and all that sort of stuff. I don’t think more overseas players is the way forward really. I think there are a lot of good players out there and I personally think if we played less cricket, then the standard would improve as a result because preparation would be better – bowlers would be more rested and able to bowl closer to a hundred percent.”
His solution? “Somewhere around the twelve game number is not a bad thing and I think there is an opportunity to restructure the game in terms of blocks of four day cricket and one day would help in the preparation as well, so those are the things that are being looked at the moment and hopefully we’ll get a better system come the start of next season,” said Strauss. It didn’t happen.
Blocked or Assisted
Meanwhile are young players being blocked or assisted by overseas players? Chris Woakes was on the verge of breaking through when we talked to him – for England that is. “Overseas players make English cricket stronger, but there shouldn’t be too many,” he said. “The academies will help the standard of English cricket to get stronger. I think that two genuine overseas players is plenty. I learned a lot from Chris Martin. He is a massive influence on me to talk to and to learn from his experience. Ashley Giles and Allan Donald have helped me a lot.”
ʻKolpakersʼ is a controversial issue that we’ll cover again shortly, but top quality overseas players is another matter. “Like I said, I think two overseas is enough because you can help a lot of the young English players apart from the hardened professional who are playing cricket,” Murali Kartik said. “You see sometimes players try to play a lot and as long as they have something to bring you don’t have any problem with it, but if you have got too many.”
The Concrete Test
Meanwhile, Woakes is a concrete test of the issue. He was a talented young player. At the time there was an overseas player and no limit on ʻKolpakers.ʼ He still emerged. “If a guy who’s qualified for England is good enough he’ll come through,” Owais Shah told us. “Of course they will [benefit from playing alongside the best foreign players]. They learn from the best players. You can always learn from anyone even if you are a reasonably good player you can learn from him.”
Shah believes there is a continuing learning curve. “You can learn little bits from everyone else. You can learn off bad players – some of the mistakes they make, you can make sure that you don’t make that mistake. You’re always learning.”
But what about Woakes? “Overseas players can help, but too many could spoil it,” Woakes claims. “We need to find the right balance or they could block young English players like me from coming through. I want to continue making progress. I think I can become a genuine all rounder and bat at number seven at least.”
And he did emerge. The 23-year-old has represented England in one-day-internationals and T20s. His former Director of Cricket Ashley Giles is now England’s manager in the shorter forms of cricket. He rated Woakes highly at Warwickshire, but was an outspoken critic of ʻKolpakers.ʼ
Meanwhile, Kartik holds a very surprising view given that if he had his wish, it would put him out of work. “I personally would like to see a state where you don’t actually need overseas players,” he said.