Letter: Nationality haunts the village cricket green

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The Independent Online
From Mr Steve Greenfield and

Mr Guy Osborn

Sir: The controversial article in Wisden Cricket Monthly has generated a debate which has, to date, centred entirely around professional sports players. Issues of nationality are far more deeprooted than might initially be suspected. Over the past year we have conducted extensive research into the use of overseas players in amateur cricket and have found that the issue of player nationality is as contentious an issue in the recreational game as it is at both county and international level.

Our results have revealed that in many leagues, particularly the stronger ones, overseas players have been restricted to one per club, in some cases this has even been extended so that "foreign" players are banned completely. One problematic question has been the determination of who is an overseas player. The general definition used is "not qualified to play for England". As this is determined by a combination of birthplace, citizenship and residence, the effect is to exclude many players from the amateur game.

It is difficult to see the correlation between England availability and amateur cricket, if better players (and this is often the heart of the matter) need restricting to preserve local sporting culture it requires a more considered approach. This policy, which is undoubtedly on the increase, has not been universally popular, as not only do many club cricketers enjoy the prospect of being pitted against good-quality players, but also overseas players can provide excellent role models for younger cricketers besides any coaching function they often provide.

The questions that require consideration are much wider than the efforts of English sportsmen; they encompass nationalism, racism and social and cultural identities. As we have discovered, this is a debate that is taking place as much at the level of the village green as it is nationally.

Yours faithfully,

Steve Greenfield

Guy Osborn

Centre for the Study of Law

Society and Popular Culture

University of Westminster

London, WC1

5 July