Saturday, 12 May 2012

Muppets of the Jessop Tavern

The Jessop Tavern View's recent encounter with the taxi driving cousin of notorious damp run-up dodging, no ball specialist Shabbir Ahmed prompted a thought. Is he Gloucestershire's worst ever overseas player?

Christ, we thought, there must be some god awful competition for such a inglorious award. After all, Gloucestershire have had some of the very worst people to ever play first class cricket stroll about on the same turf that WG and Wally use to call home. (Just thinking that Nick Trainor can claim a Gloucestershire cap alongside these two makes our blood boil) Therefore, our thinking went, we must also have had some of international crickets very worst. Forget Proctor-shire. Forget Zaheer. Forget Courtney or Harv. We are only interested in the dross. The totally useless. In other words, typical Gloucestershire players....just from overseas!

Thanks to the wonder that is the Cricket Archive website, and (rare) credit to the official Glos website for providing direct links to the Gloucestershire pages, trawling through the great and good of Gloucestershire's murky overseas past was nowhere near as painful as we thought it might be.

So what did we learn? Well, sadly we don't have any real clunkers to reel off. In fact hardly any at all. The The Jessop Tavern View had been hoping for a black hole in the mid 1980's, between Proctor and Walsh, from which some extraordinarily dodgy names would appear. But no. Procter left in 1981. Courtney arrived in 1984. And some bloke called Franklyn Stephenson flirted with us in between. Oh, and Zaheer was still there. And Sadiq Mohammed. Heck, we even had Terry Alderman in 1988.

Sadly all this article has made us do is realise quite how far county cricket has fallen. It's not that we didn't know this, it's just that we hate to admit that we are writing a blog about a competition that fewer and fewer people care about. Would Shabbir Ahmed have been given a call in the 70's or 80's? About as likely as Walsh or Procter refusing to bowl because their run up was a bit damp. Where once the great and good of world cricket wanted to hone their skills in county cricket, now we have washed up internationals more often than not. Credit to those teams, like Glos, who are giving young international talent a chance to develop on the county circuit. But most teams are happy to sign up Simon Katich, talking about the wealth of experience he brings to the younger players. Or Brendan Nash, who doesn't even bring this.

So the only really embarrassing period of Gloucestershire's brushes with international superstars has been the last 10 years. The post Harv years have seen not only Shabbir, but fellow Pakistani Shoaib Malik (134 runs at 16, and 10 wickets at 53) or how about Sri Lankan comedy duo Upul Chandana (an awful, 16 wickets at 46) and Malinga Bandara (a commendable 45 wickets at 24). Also picking up a Gloucestershire wage have been the good, Jonty Rhodes (in 2003) and James Franklin, and the mercenary, that's you Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marcus North. It is perhaps fitting that also during this period Mr Cricket himself, Michael Hussey, also treaded the Gloucestershire boards to the tune of 442 runs at 36, with no hundreds. Considering that Hussey in the 00's was one of the county championship's leading plunderers, Gloucestershire can lay claim to be the only club with whom he failed to score runs.

What do these recruits, of varied quality, over the last 10 years tell us about Gloucestershire? Well, not too much if we are honest. For every Shabbir, their has been a Hamish Marshall (hell, he was good when he wasn't Irish!). For every Chandana there has been a Williamson....who we have a good feeling about this season. The sad thing that this period of overseas recruitment demonstrates is simply that no longer do counties have real links with their overseas players. Players come, they collect a wage, they captain you, then they turn up playing for Hampshire the next season (Thanks Marcus!) Little did we know it then, but Harv would be the last of the proper overseas players. This isn't Gloucestershire's fault. It's not likely that county cricket will ever see the world's leading players rocking up for entire seasons to test themselves in the best domestic competition in the world. Shame.

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