Cricket Wellington, winners of New Zealand’s first class competition 20 times, is under siege after a controversial selection decision earlier this week resulted in many senior cricketers and fans alike, calling for Firebirds coaches Anthony Stuart and Shane Deitz’s (both Australian) heads. The decision to include Jayde Herrick in the squad to face the Otago Volts in Tuesday’s Plunket Shield clash has left fringe bowlers in Wellington gobsmacked, and fans wondering just who this mystery player is.
Herrick, a 25-year-old fast bowler from Victoria, currently plays for Casey-South Melbourne in Victoria’s Premier Cricket and is reportedly close to selection for the Victorian Second XI. However despite his credentials, fans have expressed their disgust on popular New Zealand cricket website, twenty20.co.nz, slamming the decision and insisting home-grown talent deserves the opportunity before an unknown import who simply has connections to the two Australian coaches.
Examples of the backlash include;
“We have already been subjected to our province being overrun with journeyman players from NSW at the expense of Wellington born and bred players, now I notice that Wellington have selected Jayde Herrick from Victoria for the Firebirds this week. Who the hell is this guy?, I’ve looked him up, he seems to add less value than a number of Wellington fringe players!”
“What a shambles! Shit it’s tough being a Wellington Cricket fan, time and time again they make disgraceful decisions, how can Gavin Larsen stand by and let this happen? Surely as a Wellingtonian he must realise that the decisions being made are making a mockery of their development programme, eliminating pride in the badge and are undoubtedly affecting team morale.”
“What a shambles! How are the Firebirds ever going to improve if they don’t utilise home-grown talent?”
“Disgraceful! Simple as that. Cricket Wellington are meant to be the guardians of cricket for the Wellington region – how does this help? I for one will think twice before going to watch Wellington to play this season.”
With this in mind, the question must be asked, are these fans right? Is home-grown talent a better choice than overseas imports?
When arguing against the selection of home-grown talent, it must be highlighted that by including Herrick in the team, he is taking the spot of a home-grown player, a player who has come up through the junior ranks and a player who gives his all every weekend playing Pearce Cup cricket. Examples of these such players who are unlucky to miss out are leading fast bowlers McLean, Brown, Burns and Twigg, all of which are consistently taking wickets yet fail to be given an opportunity. If these such players and future home-grown stars aren’t given the opportunity to play at the highest level, then ultimately Cricket Wellington and Cricket New Zealand will suffer. They will simply move away and try their luck elsewhere, or lose interest through frustration and leave the game completely.
In addition to this, given Herrick is not a New Zealand citizen and that he faces a lengthy wait to achieve this, he is unlikely to ever represent New Zealand at international level. With this in mind, one must think of the bigger picture, and when doing so, they don’t need to be Einstein to realise that blooding a young star and giving them an opportunity ahead of an import is the wiser move.
However, despite all of this, there are those who could counter-argue that by selecting the best available players, regardless of nationality, the overall standard of cricket will improve, therefore improving the remaining home-grown talent on display. An example of this can be seen in English First Class cricket, where each of the 18 Counties have the ability to select two overseas imports each match. This has seen a dramatic rise in the standard of cricket in England, which could be the reason behind their surge up the rankings in Test Match cricket over the last decade.
In addition to this, the coaching and wisdom passed on from these players is something that money simply can’t buy young, developing cricketers. For example, imagine the knowledge and advice a young leg spinner playing for Hampshire under Shane Warne, arguably the greatest bowler of all-time, would receive… It simply would have no equal.
So, with both arguments in mind, what is the solution?
I believe that given the success and popularity of Twenty20 cricket all around the world, there is still a place for overseas imports in Domestic cricket, however it should be limited to the shortest form of the game. This will ensure the crowds still attend in thousands to see the biggest stars of the game and it will also ensure that the knowledge and advice can still be passed on young players in the domestic squads.
First Class cricket however needs to be the breeding ground for home-grown talent, as after all this is the true form of the game and the form which requires the most amount of skill. Young players need this experience to work on their game and develop into world-class cricketers.
In addition to this, administrators all over the world have come to accept that the fans simply aren’t going to attend First Class matches, even if overseas imports were playing, hence the reason Twenty20 cricket came into existence. With this in mind, there is no financial incentive to play overseas imports in First Class cricket either.
I’m sure there are many differing views on this topic and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Given this, feel free to share your views on this topic below.