Cricket: Hamilton's divided loyalty

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The Independent Online
AS IF Australia were not a sufficient handful, England have now embarked on a cricketing dispute with Scotland. The Ashes may not be involved but the future of the World Cup may yet depend upon it.

The subject of this conflict is Gavin Hamilton, the talented Yorkshire all-rounder who may or may not play for England or Scotland in the World Cup next summer.

Hamilton has already played for Scotland and may be good enough to be selected for England in the tournament next summer. There lies the problem. Hamilton played one match for Scotland against Bangladesh last summer, which seemed to tie him to his country of origin. But the International Cricket Council has now ruled that he can still play for England since Scotland is only a minor cricketing nation (an associate member of the ICC rather than a full one).

Hamilton could be selected in England's preliminary squad of 30 for the World Cup and Scotland were yesterday wondering where that would leave their selection options. Conceivably, he might also be included in their squad.

"We could do with Gavin," Scotland's director of cricket, Jim Love, said, "but in the end it is up to Gavin and we certainly will not be putting pressure on him. We took up the case with the ICC because the original rule was that having played for Scotland he could not then go on to play for England. We are pleased that rule has been lifted and it applies to other countries as well but would not want to stand in the way of Gavin's career. It's quite understandable that he wants to play for England."

The prospect of Hamilton, 24, being among the 11 who might or might not contest the World Cup final for England at Lord's next summer is a slim one. But he is a talented swing bowler who ended last summer with his county in splendid style. It was probably that purple patch which brought his potential to the attention of the England selectors.

The final 30 players in the various squads must be named today, though, apparently it is possible to make additions to those by the time that the final 15 plus four reserves are named at the end of March.

Hamilton could, however, be selected in England's final 30, not picked in their final 15 and yet still miss out on playing for the country of his birth. "Jim has a career and we quite understand that," said Love.

The difficulty has not been helped by the fact that Hamilton at present is neither in England nor Scotland. He is playing club cricket in Australia.

Shane Warne was due to lead Australia at the MCG for the first time last night for the match against England, after the captain, Steve Waugh, was ruled out of his third successive one-day international with a hamstring strain. "It will be great," Warne said before the game. "I'm enjoying doing the captaincy, I always have, and it brings out the best in you. It's great to get the opportunity to do it but I'll be handing it back to Steve when he is ready."

That is likely to happen on Sunday, as Waugh confirmed that he should definitely be fit for the game with England in Sydney. Waugh said he might even have played in the match that began last night, but decided to take no chances.

"It's probably a good move because there is a lot of cricket coming up," he said.

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