After picking up the brand spanking new thecricketpaper three weeks ago (which I got free as the silly cashier at Sainsbury’s thought it was a supplement with the Telegraph!) I noticed that their coverage of the Premier League’s across the country was second to none.
What amazed me this week was how many ex county players are still turning out at a good standard. It is not just former players either, there are a plethora of current stars plying their trade in the top club divisions, there are even a few Internationals too.
One thing that does get my goat though is the amount of overseas players playing in the leagues. Players who are no doubt getting paid a handsome amount.
My favourite club at the minute is the wonderfully named West Indian Cavaliers. I’m not pledging my allegiance to a club based on a name, they just have two, yes TWO of my favourite players while growing up. Alex Tudor of Surrey and England fame and Saqlain Mushtaq- the one reason why I wanted to bowl spin! Add Billy Shafayat, should he not have too many Hampshire commitments, and you can see how strong they will be this season.
They are not the only international players either. Robert Croft is rolling back the years at Pontarddulais, impressing with both bat and ball. Mohammed Ashraful the former Bangladesh captain – who should be good enough to play county cricket, is playing down in Kent for Blackheath. Former New Zealand opener Lou Vincent, who is travelling round the country playing cricket, played for Oxton in Cheshire yesterday.
There are current county players in the leagues too. Stephen Parry of Lancashire is at Bootle and Mullaney of Notts is also playing in the Liverpool Competition. Joe Root- a future England star- is spending his Saturday’s off turning out for Sheffield Collegiate and exciting young spinner Max Waller is taking wickets down in Devon for Torquay. Adam London is also playing for Sunbury in Surrey while he continues to try and claim back a place in the Middlesex side.
I’m not saying all these players are being paid. A number of them play in leagues where the payment of players is illegal, and it is not just in premier division cricket either. On a visit to the Oval last year, chatting to a couple of friends, they told me that they had overseas players at their clubs, earning a mere £250 a game. With a recession in place, and clubs feeling the squeeze you don’t have to be Nostradamus to understand that the future is far from bright.
Even further down the food chain, one club in Division Six of the Herts League (yes SIX as Soccer Saturday would print), had an ex county professional in their ranks, along with a couple of other players who miraculously, had joined them from premier league clubs! Far be it for me to say they were paying players, but it was a shade more than coincidental.
Clubs get around the payment of players by offering them roles such as “Director of Colts Cricket” where they gain a salary. Oh and they just happen to have to turn up for their club on a Saturday afternoon. The likes of us at The Middle Stump and most of our readership, who work all week and look forward to a gentle Saturday afternoon are finding them ruined as guys who should be playing a far higher standard, are going through sides like Bernie Ecclestone goes through young women.
Should this recession last for the next few years, like Bank of England sources say, not that they have got it right so far, I can see clubs going to the wall. This would be very sad to see as some have over a hundred years of history, and to be chucked away, all for the sake of a few cricketing mercenaries.
The leagues have to clamp down on this NOW!