The un-English Englishmen – another perspective

The subject of non-Englishmen playing for England has been enlivened once more by Keaton Jennings making his Test debut for England in Mumbai. Jennings joins a long line of non-English players to play for England and yesterday, Miles Reucroft argued that it doesn’t matter where you are from – if you qualify, are good enough and want play for England, then good luck to you. You can read that blog here.

Keaton Jennings joined a long list of non-English England players in Mumbai. He performed okay, too...

Keaton Jennings joined a long list of non-English England players in Mumbai. He performed okay, too…

The subject, however, runs much deeper than that and elicits a complex array of responses. Giles Falconer takes a look at the debate from another angle.

There are, I think, some differences between ‘then’ and ‘now’ which need more discussion.

For example in the 19th Century professional cricketers who played for more than one country were, if not common, then certainly not unusual: in addition to Albert Trott (who fell out with Australia after failing to be selected for a tour of England in 1896 led by his brother!) there were Billy Midwinter, Billy Murdoch, JJ Ferris, Sammy Woods and Frank Hearne.

Most of these were professionals trying to maximise their career earnings (though Woods was an amateur who was Australian born, but lived most of his life in England). It’s fair to say the rules for qualification in this period were a bit different to today – for example Ranjitsinhji was selected by the committee at Old Trafford having been excluded from the previous Test by the Lords committee. Should he have played for his native India? Of course, India had no Test team and wouldn’t for another 36 years.

The selection of his nephew, Duleep and the Nawab of Pataudi Snr. for England in the 1930s is less understandable, except that both had strong links with English cricket and probably wanted to play at the highest level, a level at which India was not playing at the time.

Jump forward to the 1970s and 80s and South Africa was excluded from all international cricket so it was perhaps understandable that cricketers such as the Smith brothers and Alan Lamb who could qualify to play for England, did.

They – like Ranjitsinhji in the 1890s, albeit for different reasons, had no alternative. You might say the same for some of the Zimbabweans who have moved abroad in recent years – the political situation in their homeland (plus the diplomatic isolation and economic chaos) has made it very difficult to forge a career there. So Gary Ballance’s decision to move to England is, at least, understandable.

This isn’t the case for South Africans today though – whether Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott or Jennings. They could have played in South Africa and, no doubt, have done well for the country of their birth and education. For me, that is where they should be playing, although I agree totally that they have done nothing wrong – it is the rules I feel need looking at.

For those born abroad but educated (or mostly educated) in England, like Andrew Strauss or Matt Prior, I think the situation is different.

I’d place them as closer to those England players born abroad in the past – Bob Woolmer, Colin Cowdrey and Robin Jackman were born in India, but no-one would question their right to represent England. And Ted Dexter couldn’t have had much of a career in Italy (or Freddie Brown in Peru!)

So I support the longer qualification period for those who come to the UK , make it their home and stay for seven years and then take the opportunity to represent a country that they have clearly embraced. I don’t subscribe to the full ‘born and bred’ argument, but if England, with 18 counties, can’t pick a successful Test team we really shouldn’t be picking those from abroad who can’t, or don’t want to, represent their own team.

By Giles Falconer

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