Controversy over overseas players extends beyond first-class and test cricket to the club game, a new survey shows.
Produced by Steve Greenfield and Guy Osborn, senior lecturers in law and organisers of the new centre for the study of law, lociety and popular culture at Westminster University, the report Gentlemen, Players and the 6'9" West Indian fast bowler, based on a survey of 204 cricket league secretaries, is published by Manchester Metropolitan University.
The role of the overseas player in the British game has been controversial since the introduction of the immediate qualification scheme in 1968 allowed an influx into county cricket. Critics have argued that this is a key reason for the England team's decline.
More recently has come the argument over players with overseas origins who qualify to play for England - peaking in the current row over an article in Wisden Cricket Monthly which is the subject of legal action by Derbyshire and England players Philip DeFreitas and Devon Malcolm.
And as Dr Greenfield reports: "Many leagues consider the influx of 'overseas players' a serious problem." Responses have varied. Some, including the Minor Counties Cricket Association have banned players not qualified for England. Leagues in Wales, Yorkshire and the North West have been most likely to do this. Others are considering bans. Dr Greenfield says: "I expect we will see a standard ban in all the premier leagues in the near future."
The authors argue that this is rather crude and point instead to the policy of a league in Kent. This restricts overseas players to one per club but also stipulates that "a player who returns to the same club the following year loses his overseas status because of the loyalty he has shown. Passports, nationality and eligibility for England are all irrelevant."
And if fear of the outsider is one factor in bans, so is the fact that some overseas players are to be found playing way below their own level: "This is where problems arise consistently, with players who are so much better than those they are playing with and against, completely unbalancing games," says Dr Osborn.