Transfer Saga

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This guy only ever played for one club, in reality and virtuality. The same can not be said of others.

More than ever, domestic cricket in England seems to be following its football counterpart, particularly in regards to the transfer market. I believe that there was a time, long before I discovered an interest in cricket, in fact long before I was even born, that players remained loyal to one county for the entirety of their career. Of course some still do but it is no longer necessarily the norm. That’s not to say that transfers didn’t happen in the past, of course they did but they’ve become far more frequent in modern times. More than a decade ago now, Jimmy Ormond, whilst on tour with England, famously posed with his new Surrey shirt following his move from Leicestershire. I recall there being suggestions back then that the cricket transfer market was becoming like football’s and it’s certainly the case today.

Last winter we saw the likes of Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman depart Durham for Surrey. This season Angus Robson went on trial with Sussex whilst some mid-season transfers have tasted a little bitter. Tom Kohler-Cadmore agreed to depart Worcestershire for Yorkshire and though it wasn’t supposed to happen until next season, it was clear that Worcestershire had no interest in fielding TK-C when his future lay elsewhere and so the deal was brought forward.

Meanwhile one-time England squad member Mark Footitt has returned to Nottinghamshire from Surrey. He has also previously represented Derbyshire.

Former England cap Ajmal Shahzad must be one of the most serial county swappers. He can now list Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Leicestershire as county teams for whom he has represented their first XIs.

Dominic Sibley, Will Rhodes and Adam Hose have all headed to Warwickshire while Rikki Clarke swapped with Sibley to go back to Surrey. Sibley wanted guarantees about batting in the top three in all forms of the game. Surrey’s Alec Stewart wouldn’t provide but Ashley Giles would and so Sibley arrived amid bitter frustration on Surrey’s part.

Jos Buttler of course moved from Somerset to Lancashire whilst my home county, Yorkshire, have acquired many players from other counties in recent years:

Gary Ballance (Derbyshire)

Jack Brooks (Northamptonshire)

Andrew Hodd (Sussex)

Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Worcestershire)

Liam Plunkett (Durham)

Ryan Sidebottom (Returned from Nottinghamshire)

David Willey (Northamptonshire)

Players such as six-hitter Ross Whiteley and England Lions spinner Ollie Rayner are among others to have migrated at one time or another during their playing days.

The midseason activity this term, complete with more than subtle hints of acrimony and contract squabbles seem to be taking the game of bat and ball firmly into football territory.

Should mid-season transfers be allowed at all?

Should loans be allowed?

Should squads have a maximum number of players like the Premier League?

Returning to Angus Robson, he was released by Leicestershire because they wanted play youngster Harry Dearden. After Dearden failed to set the County Championship alight he was firstly replaced by Arun Harinath who had arrived on loan from Surrey before another loanee, Michael Carberry arrived at Grace Road too. In a funny way, the domestic circuit is becoming like the England team with counties failing to invest in players and deciding it’s necessary to pinch from the competition… and don’t get me started on Hampshire! I’ve touched upon their South African acquisitions before and the effect it will have on local talent.

This is the point in the article where I’m supposed to provide some sort of summary but I’ll leave it to the cricket followers of the world to make of it what you will…?

… and who could forget Monty Panesar’s transfer sagas? (Errrr… Me!)

Robbed!

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At the commencement of the 2017 county campaign, Leicestershire ruthlessly decided that they wanted opening batsman Angus Robson out of the First XI. They opted to pair young Harry Dearden with not so young Paul Horton at the top of the order and so Robson departed in rather unceremonious fashion. Leicestershire appear to have since given up on Dearden, temporarily at least. They’ve snapped up Surrey stalwart Arun Harinath on loan. No disrespect to Harinath but that doesn’t really add up does it?

The early season headlines seemed to suggest that Robson had joined Sussex but it soon became clear that it wasn’t quite so straight forward. Robson had joined the Hove outfit but only on a season long Second XI trial. If anything that was probably a bit embarrassing for a determined twentyfive-year-old with just shy of 3000 First Class runs. Anyway, it looks as though Robson might get a chance in the Sussex first team in 2018, possibly at the expense of Chris Nash. Nash has been a good servent to Sussex but hasn’t hit his straps this year when opening alongside young Harry Finch. Bermuda born Delray Rawlins is also part of the equation now.

Back to Robson, his recent outings for Sussex 2s have been pretty productive:

97, 15*, 34, 31*, 0, 66, 70*, 63*, 110*, 35, 59*

That first score of 97 may confirm why he finds himself in his current predicament. In the First Class game he has 27 half-centuries but only two hundreds. That’s possibly the difference between his average of 31.52 and maybe 35 plus. To be fair, reviewing those Second XI scores shows us that he’s finished undefeated on quite a few occasions as well as registering a century.

We’ve recently seen his brother Sam get back into the England Lions fold, hopefully next term we can see little brother Angus can regain a place on the First Class circuit.

Also at Sussex, former England paceman Ajmal Shahzad has left the club. I met Shahzad earlier this year outside of cricket and he was kind enough to ‘talk cricket’ with me. Hopefully he’ll find a new home, stay fit and have three of four years racking up the wickets.

Could he go to Surrey?

I’ll admit it, I’ve given up hope of Mark Footitt playing for England. Going to Division Two won’t help his chances though to be fair, returning to Nottinghamshire he’ll be surrounded by internationals. With Luke Fletcher out for the season and Stuart Broad and Jake Ball in the England reckoning as well as James Pattinson’s future uncertain then Footitt will have a part to play. Hold on! Surrey are well stocked with quicks so could Shahzad even return to Notts?

English county cricket becomes more like the Premier League everyday when it comes to transfers. Maybe Footitt and Shahzad could be opening the bowling at Trent Bridge before the summer is out!

The Cricket Wheel of Fortune

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You are selected to tour with England. You get injured so miss the tour. The following year you are again selected to tour with England. You perform well in a tour match but in the Tests things don’t really go your way. You’re dropped and many perceive your international career to have been and gone but hopefully you’ll be better for the experience, will perform solidly on the county circuit and knock the door down for a recall. Your county however spend big bucks on some new players and come the first match of the county season you’ve lost your place to another spin bowling top order batsman. Step forward messrs Zafar Ansari and Scott Borthwick.

Of course Borthwick himself is one of many that has made his way through England’s selectorial revolving door and who ultimately has reinvented himself and re-locationed himself in order to knock the international door down again.

That’s cricket’s wheel of fortune ladies and gentlemen. Another example and another Surrey / Durham one at that: Opening batsman Rory Burns gets injured. Opening batsman Arun Harinath comes in and hits some hundreds but a year or so later Durham opening batsman Mark Stoneman heads south and Harinath joins Ansari in the Second XI.

Will the omitted players respond by making and taking runs and wickets galore in the second XI or will they go all Fabian Cowdrey on us and we’ll next see Zafar Ansari playing piano on The Voice? (Not as ridiculous as it sounds, honest!)

Could Ansari pop up at Sussex next year or Harinath at Leicestershire?

Of course I myself have suggested that Mark Footitt should make England’s XI (Before his 6-14 against Warwickshire I might add) but he left both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in order to keep another ex-England man Stuart Meaker out of the Surrey team. Michael Carberry is another example of a player who moved counties and who without doing so might not have donned the Three Lions jersey.

Anyway back to the point. In the space of less than a year Zafar Ansari has gone from being bridled with joy at being selected for England to presumably being a bit peeved at losing his place in the Surrey team. The problem for Ansari is a lack of cricketing identity. He’s tended to bat between numbers one and four but only has three First Class centuries. Those are great achievements, that’s three more than a lot of people but not good enough for a top order batsman with 115 innings under his belt. His bowling average of 35.18 is respectable enough but comes at an average of less than two wickets a match. This actually suggests a lack of responsibility rather than ability. Question marks linger over Ansari’s desire but when any professional sports player suggests that their game isn’t the be all and end all it can sound worse than it should. Some players immerse themselves in their profession to such an extent that it limits them but for others, getting away from the game can help them to relax and prepare for competition so long as they haven’t completely abandoned practice.

It will be interesting to see where in a decades time Zafar Ansari sits in the history of English cricket. Maybe he’ll be the next Gareth Batty!