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Simon Sweetman column – Time to focus on our own development

The editor of Cricket Statistician analyses recent events

WHILE the news about what goes on at the ICC seems to change daily (presumably depending who is nearest to the fax machine), it seems we have the basis of a somewhat formalised Test championship, which may have many consequences, some of them unseen or unintended.

One effect might be a change in the rules, which enable Test countries (mostly England) to steal away players from other countries, both Test nations and Associates.

The recent unhappiness with Kolpak is probably a blip, as the possibility is likely to disappear with Brexit and the position seems driven by the difficulty of earning enough in South Africa. Players from the other cash-poor nations are either more content with their lot or see other routes to financial bliss.

The problem for the West Indies is that it becomes easier to travel to the sponsored T20 leagues than to continue to deal with the permanently fractious West Indies board. Other countries so far seem able to live in the world as it is rather than as it used to be.

But here’s a question. A Sussex 2nd XI player last season, Delray Rawlins, is rapidly proving himself the star of the ODI leg of the England U19 tour of India. Scores of 107*, 46 and 96, and bowling his overs as well.

Rawlins can play for England U19 because he has been at St Bede’s School, and has now signed a professional contract with Sussex. It appears he has ambitions to play for England and as a British passport holder he only needs four years residence which under the rules relating to boarding schools he is well on the way to completing.

But…and there is a but again – as recently as November, Rawlins was playing for Bermuda, where he was born. Is this England at it again.

Bermuda were very early Associate members of ICC, achieving that status in 1966,

but have made little progress over time and in 2016 played in Division 4 of the World Cricket league, losing to the USA and Oman in the process.

They are now a long way from any serious status, in the same division as Italy. So one could hardly blame Rawlins for looking for chances elsewhere.

England seem to use more foreign-born players than anyone else (perhaps a consequence of Empire), with in recent years a particular penchant for South Africans – but how would we now feel if Keaton Jennings’ development means fewer chances for Ben Duckett or Haseeb Hameed?

But the worst damage has been done to Ireland, with the added gall for the Irish that with the exception of Eoin Morgan, the players England have pinched have not quite made it, so Ireland has lost vital players for nothing.

If we made proper use of our own resources – managing better to reach the 93 per cent who are not privately educated – we might not need to be so predatory.

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, February 10 2017

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