A point to ponder

If it is the acceptable rule for football and rugby, athletics and most of the other major sports it ought to be the rule for cricket and it is time for the selectors to limit the number born outside the British Isles, writes Ted Corbett.

Now that it is compulsory to have been born in South Africa before you are chosen for the England Test team — what next?

I joke, of course, but consider the qualification status of most England cricketers. They do not make easy reading for anyone — and I make no bones about my feelings — who prefers that only Englishmen play for England.

If it is the acceptable rule for football and rugby, athletics and most of the other major sports it ought to be the rule for cricket. The odd exception — like the great Indian princes who played for England when international sport was less important and less closely defined than it is now — makes for colour, brightness and provides talking points.

But half a dozen at a time — no thank you. My belief is that it has gone too far and it is time for the selectors to limit the number born outside the British Isles.

Instead we have an unbalance since there are too many who can type Johannesburg quickly but are not sure where to find Harrogate on a map.

Andrew Strauss, the captain when he is not on holiday, was born in Johannesburg 31 years ago but played all his cricket in this country. His parents brought him home when he was six. He is one of the best batsmen in the world at this moment — don’t go off in a huff, Andrew.

He falls into the same category as Douglas Jardine, born in Calcutta, Freddie Brown, born in Peru and Ted Dexter, born in Milan. Their fathers were following their profession abroad.

Matt Prior was born in Johannesburg in 1982 and has had a similar career pattern to Strauss. He was turned into a wicket-keeper when he joined Sussex by Peter Moores — himself a considerable county gloveman — who later went on to be the England coach. How long he lasts is doubtful now that he faces a challenge from — yes, you have guessed it — another South African.

Kevin Pietersen, son of a South African father and an English mother, first saw the light of day in Pietermaritzburg 30 years ago. KP came to England because he thought the quota system would work against him and he obeyed all the regulations by qualifying. He is intensely loyal to England.

Jonathon Trott was born in Cape Town 31 years ago and claims family connections to the Trotts who played for England and Australia in the 19th century. I suppose it sets a precedent of sorts; but his lack of speed in the field will tell against him eventually.

The latest import is Craig Kieswetter who began life in Johannesburg 23 years ago and seems ready to ease Prior into limbo again.

It is not impossible for all of these five South African-born cricketers to play in the same Test team and it is difficult to blame the individuals for taking the path they hope will lead them to glory.

They have made every attempt to fit into our way of life. Prior is reputed to have lost his South African accent within a week of settling in England, Pietersen has married an English rose and none have shown a yearning to return to the land of the circling wagons.

But is it right? Surely not.

It is difficult to imagine a Pakistan party, an Indian team or any Australia squad containing foreigners. Of course it would be no excuse for England to follow the example of a nation that went overseas to recruit.

Most important of all there is the question of national pride. Those of us born and bred in England do not wish to be represented by men from another nation.

The truth is that no other Test team gathers more than an occasional player from abroad although there was a time when I thought that the Zimbabweans, who found it difficult from the start to attain Test standard ought to appeal for Graeme Hick to go back to his home soil.

That would undoubtedly have given them greater strength, a lot more runs and a captain to admire. Perhaps he will be their coach one day.

Alongside the South African question there is another worry. Why is it that of all the Asian cricketers — most of them born in this country — not one has established his place in either Test or one-day sides?

Men with such obvious quality as Vikram Solanki, Ravi Bopara, Adil Rashid and Monty Panesar are all now out in the cold and with no obvious way back.

Bopara scored three successive centuries off West Indies bowling, Rashid has an articulate backer in the former England captain Geoff Boycott and Panesar’s quality is obvious.

There is no doubt to my mind that the selectors allowed themselves to be duped by Shane Warne’s damnation of Panesar. He claimed Panesar had not played in 30 Tests but in the same Test 30 times, meaning that he had not added variety to his bowling.

I read that the ultimate sin by Panesar was that he allowed Michael Vaughan to set his fields for him.

Not long ago I heard a county cricketer say that when Muttiah Muralitharan began his county career “we had to set his field for him — he had no idea.”

But 792 Test victims down the line I expect Murali is hardly worried about his ability to get his three slips in the right place!