Craig Kieswetter’s early success at international level has led to a familiar question rearing its head again; is the amount of foreign players representing England a problem? The South African scored 107 in only his third international match, having been called up as soon as he qualified to represent England. Kieswetter joins fellow South Africans Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott in the England set-up, as well as Matt Prior and Andrew Strauss who were also born in the Rainbow Nation. Former skipper Michael Vaughan also stuck his oar into the debate recently, saying: “I would like to see, in an ideal world, eleven complete Englishmen in the team.”
Trott’s inclusion in the side for the final Ashes test put some people’s backs up, especially following reports of him celebrating with the South African team after success at Edgbaston the previous summer. Vaughan added that he was not at ease with the “ship in system of looking at talent”, questioning particularly the presence of Trott who represented South Africa as high up as A team level. Should we be concerned that England may often have two batsmen at the crease who were both born abroad?
The agent of Durham player Phil Mustard expressed his frustration when Kieswetter was initially called up to the Performance Squad: “Soon there will be a danger of more South African accents in the England dressing room than English ones. Phil does not have a divine right to play for England, but when he is overlooked for a place in the development squad by a guy who is not even qualified to play for England yet, he has been marginalized too far.” Mark Ramprakash echoed his sentiments when he commented that English fans wanted to see English players representing the side.
So is the cricket fan genuinely concerned? Should we banish Pietersen, Trott and Kieswetter in preference of thoroughbred Englishmen? Many would suggest that the presence of these repatriated players is hindering the progress of our homegrown talent, for example the inclusion of Darren Pattinson at Headingley in 2008 was one met with bemusement. Another big question is, when does it stop? Does every Jacques, Hashim and Graeme that can’t make it in South Africa hop on a plane to England? England are on the verge of being able to put a side out made completely of players born outside of England, that seems bizarre, does it go against the very concept of being a national side?
I’m of the belief, however, that the best players possible should represent England. If the laws allow the likes of Kieswetter and Trott to qualify then there should not be a problem. They have proved their desire to represent England with the time spent qualifying in county cricket. We should be proud that players want to come over and represent us, even if it is because – in Trott’s case – they feel they will not make their own national side.
Foreign imports also lift the standard of cricket in England; you only have to look at Matt Prior’s form since he was placed under some severe pressure from Kieswetter to see that. They increase competition and crucially they increase the performance of the England team. If the likes of Kieswetter and Trott want to play for England how can we criticise them? I doubt Michael Vaughan, or anyone for that matter, was condemning the system when Pietersen was hitting 158* to help us win us the Ashes in 2005, or when Trott hit 119 to do the same thing four years later.
If Craig Kieswetter carries on performing like he did in Chittagong, I doubt many people will question whether he should have his place in the side either.