A TIGHTENING of visa regulations by the UK government is set to affect hundreds of fringe Indian first-class and amateur cricketers, who flock to England every summer to play minor county cricket, earn experience and some money on the side. In an advisory sent to 97 English clubs, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has made it clear that they won’t be allowed to hire first-class cricketers on a Standard Visitor Visa. The clubs can still draft amateur players, but can’t pay them any money for their services or employ them.
“It appears that the regulations regarding players who enter the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa or via the Youth Mobility Scheme are being tightened following reports of specific breaches in 2016,” the ECB said in an e-mail to the clubs, following discussions with the UK Home Office and UK Border Agency.
“Although the final details are yet to be agreed, it is likely that anyone who plays or has ever played first-class cricket in the country of his birth will be ineligible to play under a Standard Visitor Visa, which will, only, be valid, in future, for amateur players,” it said.
For years, England has been a favoured destination for many Indian players as the off-season at home coincides with the English cricket season. It was a common practice for discarded first-class cricketers or those affiliated with various cricket academies to enter the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa and play club cricket. Some also seek odd jobs unofficially — as ground staff, coaching youngsters or even at the club’s bar.
“Although clubs will be permitted to pay the air fare of and accommodation for the (amateur) player who enters UK on a Standard Visitor Visa, they will no longer be able to provide them with payment of any kind and these players will not be permitted to coach in any capacity, nor will they be permitted to work on the ground or behind the club bar. It will, also, be illegal for them to seek employment of any other kind during their stay,” the ECB said.
The ECB move will not affect professional players who apply for a Tier-5 work permit, such as the likes of Test player Cheteshwar Pujara, who will be eyeing a county stint this summer.
Among those who will be affected by the new guidelines is Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy all-rounder Javed Khan. Khan, who has been out of the Mumbai set-up for two seasons, played minor county cricket in England last year. “I wanted to go and play this year but now I can’t as the rules are more strict than before,” he told The Indian Express.
The advisory has forced some players to consider other options, most appealing of which is the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League in Bangladesh. Among those headed to Dhaka are Delhi’s Unmukt Chand, J&K’s Parvez Rasool, Mumbai’s Abhishek Nayar and Punjab’s Uday Kaul.