The Tasmanian Devil, the Antipodean carnivorous marsupial, has been classified recently as an endangered species, but over the years natives of that Australian island state have thrived in English cricket, to the extent that they are now earning themselves administrative and coaching roles. Is there perhaps a plot afoot for Tasmanians to take over English cricket?
The thought has been prompted by the England and Wales Cricket Board's latest appointment. Dene Hills, a left-handed opening batsman who played for Australia A and a Tasmanian, is the new lead batting coach at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough.
Admittedly, it is not quite as influential a position as that held by Troy Cooley, another Tasmanian, who was the England bowling coach helping mastermind the 2005 Ashes triumph, but it does mean that many of England's batting stars of the future will go through Hills' hands. He is well qualified. The 37-year-old scored more than 7,000 first-class runs for Tasmania before becoming batting coach to the Australia team, after which he took on the role of senior batting coach at Cricket Australia's Centre of Excellence in Brisbane.
When Hills arrives in October he will be treading a well-worn path from Van Diemen's Land to England. The pioneer of the Tasmanian diaspora in modern times is David Boon, who settled in Durham for a couple of years at the end of the last century. Jamie Cox played for Somerset between 1999 and 2004, and was joined in his final year by Ricky Ponting. But probably the most influential position, after Cooley's, to be held by a Tassie is the secretary and chief executive of the Marylebone Cricket Club – Keith Bradshaw.
Tasmanians apparently refer to the Australian mainland as "The North Island", but it surely cannot be long before England is referred to by them as "The Western Island".