Cross Border Cricketism!!
An interesting aspect of this great game
By Ali Y Usmani

We all know that cricket is a ‘gentleman’s game’ and glorious uncertainties. And we also know that it is a “funny game” too. But have you ever thought, that it is a game of “cross-border-playerism” as well or for that matter, it can be also called “ Trans-National-Cricketism”. Now one may well ask, what is it? It is a phenomenon, where players of one country play for another country. Even this is of two types. One case is, a players of a foreign origin playing for a country where he was brought up and learnt to play the game. They can be called ‘players of foreign origin’, which is quite common even in other sports. But the others case is that of a foreign players playing for another country, when he could have played for his country. This is one phenomenon, where a player is born and brought up in one country and plays the game there until a fair bit of time, and then switches on to play for some other country, which is somewhat peculiar to cricket.

Remember Kepler Wessels!! The former South African captain who made a dazzling century in the very first test that South Africa played on its return to the International cricket fold. Now do you remember another Wessel, a Southpaw, who played for Australia in the 80’s and made a century in his very first test? Well both are same. Interesting? Isn’t it?

But how did one player get to play for two different teams is the question. Well, Cricket, more than any other sports offers this opportunity. This is not an example in isolation. There are many more. Some belonging to the first case of ‘foreign origin’ player and some ‘foreign’ themselves.

To explain, how this strange phenomenon has helped cricketing countries, just have a look at England. The history of English cricket is a history of immigration in England. Today’s growing multi-ethnicity in Britain is truly reflected in its cricket team. However coming back to the point of “Cross-border-cricketism”, the players that have represented England from other countries where they were eligible to play, were players like Chris Broad (The players, who won the man-of-the –series in the 1986-87 Ashes in Australia, the only Ashes, England has won in the last 15 years). He was a South African and so were Robin Smith and Allan Lamb who played for England for many years, and were fortunate, they could play international cricket, despite South Africa’s have. Graeme Hick of Zimbabwe is another example that could have played for his mother country but chose to play for England, as Zimbabwe was not a test-side then.

In fact, there was a time, when all of England was waiting for the ‘seven year period’ to end when Graeme Hick could become eligible to play for England (It is another matter altogether that he disappointed many of them). Talking of foreign origin players England had many players of West Indies origin right since 80’s. Wilf Slack was one, who too played in the Ashes series. Then there was a time when they had their pace quardnett entirely made up of West Indies origin. Players like Philip Defrictas, Devon Malcolm, Chris Lewis and Gladstone small. 

Even the great Gordon Greenidge, who was brought up in England and where he played majority of his cricket was eligible to play for it but then he chose West Indies over England. But one of the earliest one to have played for two countries was Nawab Pataudi Sr. who played for both England and India (India didn’t play international cricket then) before Independence of India. Ranjit Singhji and Duleep Singhji too played their ‘first-class-cricket’ in England, but were Indians and might have played any of there two countries. Today the English team is led by an Indian, Naseer Hussain and contains another Indian, Mark Ramprakash too besides other non-English players like Alex Tudor. Doesn’t it seem, that England has been the only country that most benefited from this phenomenon. But consider this now. England lost Greenidge, who could have changed its destiny at that time (He did it for the West Indies along with a few others).

Recently, Andrew Symonds, who could have played for England chose to play for Australia. The current New Zealand player Roger Twose too, who studies in England and plays county there, could have become eligible for England. He chose New Zealand instead.

But this will surprise you. Allan Donald too would have been playing for England. (He has played all his life with Warwickshire. Has an English wife too). In fact, in 1987, he had almost decided to stay in England and switch his cricketing allegiance to England owing to South Africa’s isolation but was persuaded against by Mr. Ali Bacher. That could have really changed England’s fortune.

But one country that has been a victim of this phenomenon is perhaps Zimbabwe. They had first Graeme Hick, who left it for England and now they have Murrey Goodwin and Neil Johnson who have left back to play for their original countries i.e. Australia and South Africa. They were gained by Zimbabwe by the same phenomenon for which they were lost i.e. Trans-Border-Cricketism.

In the case of India, it has gained in the form of Robin Singh, who grew playing cricket on the beaches of Trinidad and Tobago and played first class cricket there. But it has lost more than it has gained. Many countries including England, Windies, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and New Zealand already have players of Indian origin. But if we consider only players, who also played their ‘first-class’ cricket in India, the one that comes foremost to the mind is Asif Iqbal, the Hyderabadi who migrated to Pakistan only after he had played first-class in India. Earlier, at the time of partition, many good players like Nazar Mohammad (Mudassar Nazar’s dad) etc went away to Pakistan who all could have played for India, internationally.

Even there were same reports in the media that Pakistan had offered to give a few bowlers to Bangladesh, when Bangladesh got its test status. Now this would have been really one of its kinds in the International cricket scene. Rumors apart, the cross border or ‘Trans-border cricketism’ phenomenon has only added to the excitement of the game and overall is something we should welcome and appreciate. It is the game that is important more than the countries that play it. 

Three cheers for ‘Trans-border-cricketism’!!!




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