Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Kolpak controversy. Or is it?

The controversial Kolpak loophole is to be closed, but the counties might not be as affected as we suppose.

Along with seemingly constant rain and the tight Championship finish, the 2008 county season will be remembered for the Kolpak conundrum. The issue of overseas players plying their trade as domestic performers has been around for a while, but the apparent increase in numbers has really grabbed the attention this season.

Pundits and fans have been quick to denounce the influx of players from abroad, claiming the signings to be a short-sighted temporary measure that restricts the development of home-grown players.

However, the loophole in European employment legislation that allows foreign players to bypass the county overseas quota is apparently to be closed, meaning a possible 60% reduction in non-England qualified players in 2010.

Will this have as much of an impact on the counties as we are led to believe? Many claim that Kolpak players deny mediocre journeymen county players first team opportunities rather than youngsters and there are some interesting statistics that support this case.

Leicestershire are often held up as the principal Kolpak culprits, but the Grace Road club this week revealed that they played more English qualified players under the age of 25 than any other county.

South Africans Dillon du Preez, Garnett Kruger, Claude Henderson, Jacques du Toit and HD Ackerman epitomise the worth of the Kolpak ruling, but Leicestershire have still managed to field 5.27 under 25 Englishman per championship match.

Joshua Cobb leads the way. The stylish stroke maker turned 18 last month and with a first class average of 52.62 from eight matches is rightly presented as evidence of the Foxes’ commitment to a youth policy.

Leicestershire have suffered a disappointing campaign but might actually reap the benefits of planning ahead, as the ECB is set to offer incentives for counties who pick domestic players under 25. Kent, who used only one such player all season, might need to recruit some home-grown youth.

Those who defend Kolpak signings cite the experience and knowledge overseas players bring and it is indeed a mistake to view these players merely as ‘has beens’; Northamptonshire played only 1.07 under 25 Englishmen in the championship this term, but few would argue that Nicky Boje, Andrew Hall and Lance Klusener’s contributions have been anything but positive, despite their best years being behind them.

The proliferation of South African Kolpakkers suggests this avenue of recruitment has been more damaging to the Protea system than ours and we should indeed be grateful that the arrangement has been a one-way street.

Written by Philip Oliver, a sports writer who blogs about cricket betting.

6 comments:

Christopher said...

The two most quintessentially English games, cricket and soccer, are, ironically, the games where England's national teams have consistently underperformed internationally.

This may not be unconnected to the fact that English domestic leagues for both these sports have historically been the magnet for foreign players.

Think about the consistent successes of Germany in soccer, and Australia in cricket, and that their domestic leagues for both these sports have always had relatively few foreign players.

The tightening of the Kolpak rules may, then, be the beginning of an English cricket renaissance.

Richard Lake said...

I've always been in favour of the Kolpak system, which in my opinion has done nothing but raise the standard of the English county game.

Given two players of equal ability, then no county is going to take the Kolpakker rather than the young English player. The salary cost alone will put the county off.

There are a large number of young county pros still making their ways through the ranks. For example at Yorkshire, while Rudolph, Brophy and Kruis may have come in the Kolpak route, this year has seen the emergence of Andrew Gale, Adam Lyth, Oliver Hannon-Dalby as well as the established youngsters, Tim Bresnan and Adil Rashid.

Leicestershire are showing the benefits of mixing and matching the old pro (be them SAffers or English) and the youngsters, whereas Surrey have struggled with a mainly English aging team.

The problem with county cricket isn't the Kolpakkers, it's that the talent is spread too thinly. Either we keep new foreign talent coming in or we need to reduce the number of counties. Forcing counties to play weaker players will do nothing for the development of the national team.

Chrispy said...

Interesting piece and good to know that Leics aren't as bad as they first appear! A side of 9 English players, 6 of whom are under or around 25 would look great though! ;-)

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