USUAL pre-Test match radio chat with Nick Cook, Mark Nicholas and Graeme Fowler centres on the selection of Martin McCague from Northern Ireland via Perth. The general feeling is that it is wrong, underlined by a team collage in one tabloid of 11 England players born abroad, though whether Paul Terry should be labelled German on account of his mother giving birth in an officers' mess in Osnabruck is dubious. The problem partly stems from our own immigration laws and also from a late 1980s' Test and County Cricket Board ruling. I attended a registration committee meeting which discussed Graeme Hick's eligibility for England. At the time, you had to have been resident in this country at least 11 years to qualify. One committee member said: 'New Zealand are interested in Hick, let's reduce our qualifying period to seven years.' And so steps were recommended.
Hick, in fact, has been a loyal servant to Worcestershire and England, married a local girl and will make his home here, but it is a dangerous precedent. There are now a number of entrees into the England team apart from being on the Essex staff. Being born in Great Britain is one, regardless of where you were reared; you could be Burmese but play under Gooch if you had lived here for at least four years from the age of 11. It would be more plausible to insist individuals were educated here for six years or more, besides possessing British next of kin. Failing that, at least pretenders from the southern hemisphere should learn to disguise their accent so they sound English. This is not a new problem. The Nawab of Pataudi (Snr) played for England before the war and against them after it, while Tony Greig captained England in the 1970s.
AN appointment with Waqar Younat The Oval. Surrey's headquarters is quite an amphitheatre and descending the stairs to the wicket with Durham on 29 for 7 and the last two men absent injured I felt like an ailing gladiator going to his doom, the enemy waiting for the thumbs-down from the Emperor. Iced my feet first to numb potential pain from an inswinging yorker, checked helmet grille for weak areas, but the Pakistani had a breather and we scraped three figures.
Waqar is a marvellous bowler. Beautifully rhythmical, versatile and devastatingly fast. He has not managed to swing the ball as much this year, but even a little is enough at that pace and the late dip he achieves defeats your early hand and foot movements. He is friendly on the field, but he can afford to be. He does not need to resort to verbal broadsides. Martin Bicknell is a good foil at the other end. He runs in a long way, has a huge delivery stride and Monica Seles-like grunt on release. But at times the ball seems only to float down the wicket, causing batsmen to get into position too early. It is a rare quality he shares with Norman Cowans that enables them to be such prolific wicket-takers. Surrey have a powerful squad, in which David Ward is underrated despite appearing to prospect for hidden treasure whenever he takes guard, and Alistair Brown looks set to inherit Neil Fairbrother's mantle as an inspirational-one-day-player-who-never- quite-made-it-in-Tests.
TOOK advantage of large Oval crowd - lured to see Botham's last London appearance - to do a signing session of my book on Durham's first season. Was mistaken for a scorecard vendor several times. Must be time to retire.
MAYBE the real reason we are not producing winners is the dominance of overseas players in the county game. The decisive performances in today's Championship matches were produced by: Hooper (Kent), Benjamin (Worcestershire), Mushtaq (Somerset), Donald (Warwickshire), Waqar (Surrey). Only Phil Tufnell of English-qualified players turned a match for his county. We are over-reliant on overseas stars. Perhaps we should restrict such players to one-day cricket here for a while.
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