Don Topley: There’s not enough homegrown talent to support county system

England international Steven Finn has a decision to make. Picture: PA SPORT

England international Steven Finn has a decision to make. Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

In his latest column, Don Topley looks at the player moves already being made in cricket, and wonders whether there’s enough home-grown talent to support the county system.

The new football season has started and the harvest has begun, which to cricketers signals the final quarter of their season – always very depressing for me.

It is also the ‘silly season’ for professional cricketers where they are appraised on their futures and their contracts, with much speculation about moves to new counties.

The biggest potential move so far has been the rumour that Lancashire have written to Middlesex and asked to speak with England bowler Steven Finn.

Finn has recently descended England’s pecking order in all forms of cricket – but may still find himself on the plane to Australia – with the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Toby Roland Jones, and the injured Jake Ball and Mark Wood all in front of him at selection.

Lancashire now see Finn as a potential leader of their attack in all forms and someone who should be available for the Red Rose County full time, without England telling him when to rest.

Rumours of a basic £150,000 may be on the table, as the tall Hertfordshire man must eagerly make a decision whether to leave Lord’s.

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For the first time in professional cricket we have seen deals - not loans - being completed mid-season.

Somerset’s young talent, Adam Hose, immediately left for Warwickshire. Warwickshire’s Director of Cricket, Ashley Giles – under pressure from being bottom of Division 1 – recruited another talented young batsman, in Dominic Sibley, who was keen to leave Surrey because of lack of opportunities.

Giles’ pressure emanates from an inherited, older age squad with the likes of Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke Jeetan Patel and others.

Sibley left Surrey in a deal which involved veteran all-rounder Rikki Clarke swapping back to Surrey from Warwickshire, which did seem strange for me. Paceman Mark Footitt also departed Alec Stewart’s Surrey.

I note Stewart’s very basic statement on Sibley’s departure which can only be described as curt with no “thank you” for the player’s endeavours – he had been with Surrey since he was 9-years-old.

What is now clear to me is that for the first-time in cricket, player moves are getting closer to football transfers but with no money changing hands.

Cricket Benefits or Testimonials are now taxed and far more limiting and complicated, so the old carrot which the County Cricket Club used to dangle for the servant to stay to get a lucrative tax-free benefit are gone.

Players today are simply more interested in immediate deals and agents are equally aware.

I know many agents within our fraternity and they agree, the cricket world has moved massively this summer. One particular agent has confirmed the emotions associated with players/clubs has now gone.

Last Wednesday’s T20 quarter-final between Glamorgan and Leicestershire saw nine South Africans, four Australians and a Kiwi – 14 out of 22 players not English or Welsh.

There are over 40 Kolpaks/Cotonou currently here plying their trade who are not English but can play as home-grown – that’s crackers!

All the counties are guilty and this once again confirms my fears that despite England always having a competitive Under 19 national team, there is insufficient ability in the youth all over the UK to prop up the counties.

We also know about the declining participation numbers in the amateur game.

These Kolpaks and Cotonou players can earn a decent salary in the UK, far better than playing for their beloved South Africa or West Indies.

The talented Jofra Archer, 22, of Sussex CCC, was born, schooled and grew up in Barbados, as did Sussex and England colleague, Chris Jordan.

The West Indies are desperate for Archer to play for his native national team – like Jordan, he played for their U19s. Archer will likely simply state he now wants to play for Sussex and, ultimately, England. He is as English as I am Bajan!

English Cricket has been littered with overseas born and qualified England players: Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Allan Lamb, Graeme Hick, Robin and Chris Smith and the many West Indians of the 1980’s and 90s.

Simply put, there are great opportunities over here, while there is insufficient cricket ability in the UK to sustain our 18 counties.

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