Rajan's Wrong 'un: Gayle's case shows overseas pro system is short-changing fans

Years ago, Somerset could call on the power of Viv Richards year after year

Barely a decade ago, spectators at county cricket matches could still feel familiar with their side's overseas pro. One of the early attractions of the game to me was how, at the first games I went to see, players as garlanded as Mark Waugh (Essex), Carl Hooper (Kent and Lancashire) and Aravinda de Silva (Kent) would talk on intimate terms with their loyal fans. They were overseas professionals in the truest sense: top-scorers and wicket-takers who stayed a full season, became institutions within their clubs, nurtured young stars and came back year after year, so attached were they to those they played alongside.

Those days are gone. In an excellent post for espncricinfo.com, the writer Kenny Shovel recently highlighted why, with reference to the case of Chris Gayle and Somerset. The brilliant left-hander said earlier this month that he would not honour a contract he had with Somerset, so as to make himself available for the West Indies side, despite his ongoing dispute with West Indies Cricket Board. The whole negotiation was about what Somerset could do for Chris Gayle, not what Chris Gayle could do for Somerset.

Then his replacement, the suitably named Faf du Plessis, was selected for a South Africa A tour that just happens to fall in the middle of the county season. Time was when counties could plan around having a pro throughout the season. Poor Somerset, who boast such an exciting squad this year, have had their first and second choice ripped away from them.

Now more than ever, county cricket is a prisoner of the international game. The relentless march of international fixtures and the Indian Premier League has left every domestic competition – and particularly ours here – unable to compete with more lucrative attractions elsewhere. This makes pre-season planning close to impossible for coaching staff, and robs fans of one of the great traditional pleasures of supporting a county side, which is familiarity with an international star.

As Shovel notes, coaches are "left with the choice of either creating a patchwork quilt out of current Test players, plumping for an up-and- coming talent who could become a surprise tour selection should he show enough form playing for you, or, increasingly, go for a proven cricketer who has given up on, or has no chance of, an international career".

Yesterday I spoke to a former professional who agreed with this analysis. "In the 80s and 90s, Wasim [Akram] kept coming to Lancashire and [Malcolm] Marshall kept going to Hampshire. Everyone though Clive Lloyd was a Lancastrian. But one of the realities fans have to face is more international cricket means they're going to see fewer big guns." Then he made a particularly salient point: "It's not just overseas players – Kevin Pietersen has hardly played over the past two seasons."

It's been very widely noted, not least in the most recent Wisden, that a kind of voiding of domestic cricket in England and Wales has taken place, where the highest quality players are no longer on offer to fans. This has its advantages, including more room in first XIs for local talent. But the protracted death of the true county overseas pro is one of the great tragedies of the modern game, for English fans if not Indian.

Years ago, rather than chasing after a recalcitrant Gayle, Somerset could call, season after season, on the glorious power of Sir Vivian Richards. He did a huge amount to raise the standard of the game, to bring in money through better attendance, and to generate buzz and star quality that was talked about from Taunton to the Tyne. Somerset's journey in a single generation from Sir Viv to a Proteas A-sider called Faf says everything about the priorities of the game's overlords today.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam