It’s not just South Asian expatriats who travel to distant countries to populate several international cricket squads. South Africa is exporting them by the hordes too.
This was beamed clear this last fortnight, with the presence of South Africa-born players in a number of teams in Bangladesh. England had three, Netherlands had four, Ireland had one and even New Zealand included a player born in the Rainbow Nation.
The migratory instincts of South African cricketers are nothing new. Basil D’Oliveira plied his trade for England, back in the ‘60s. Kevin Pietersen leads the list of these nomads. After failing to find enough opportunities for provincial side Kwa Zulu Natal, he’d used his mother’s English ancestry to redefine his career. Until recently, Neil Wagner (the New Zealand quick who tormented India) played franchise cricket in South Africa for the Northerns. Tracing back their Dutch roots, a fair bunch of South Africans have migrated back to form the core of the Holland squad.
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England teems with arrivals from southern hemisphere’s cricket-mine. Former captain Andrew Strauss, middle-order bat Jonathan Trott along with Matt Prior and Peter Walker were all South Africans while in the current edition, Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter and Jade Dernbach were born in Africa. Ireland’s fast bowler, Max Sorensen, is a native of Johannesburg while New Zealand’s Colin Munro was born in Durban.
What forces South Africans to leave their homes in search of greener pastures? The quota system, which Pietersen flayed as the sole cause of his exit, is one. Though CSA has abolished quotas for the national side and provincial first XIs, reservation is in place for age-group provincial sides.
Many cricketers who now play for nations on completely different continents often find themselves denied opportunities due to limited spots. Though players like Ryan Ten Doeschate, Stephan Myburgh, Zimbabwe’s Neil Johnson and New Zeland’s Kruger van Wyk piled on the runs for their school sides, the South African school circuit’s robustness is legendary. The lack of exposure for their provinces and franchises sees many pore over their family trees in search of opportunities.
Heavy domestic competition and South Africa’s propensity to churn out batch upon batch of high quality players also ensures that a large number of promising and talented players do not even find themselves on the fringes of the national side. Taking up long-time county contracts, which often allow naturalization, or using foreign ancestry to parachute into an “international team” often seems the easier course of action.
Chimay is a staff reporter based in Pune.