On the 9th of June, David 'Bumble' Lloyd said on his Twitter feed that it was "madness" that counties were signing what he termed "has been" players (the specific Tweet is here). At the time, I thought it was par for the course and that a lot of people were probably thinking the same thing, but with the mini break approaching in the Twenty20 Cup I thought I'd have a look at whether his fears have proved unfounded or not.
I sumarily decided that by "has been" players, he was meaning overseas players, above the age of, say, 33, so I looked at all those overseas players signed by counties who are over the age of 33, lets look at the batting first:
Herschelle Gibbs (Yorkshire, 36)
Sanath Jayasuriya (Worcestershire, 40)
Adam Gilchrist (Middlesex, 38)
Brad Hodge (Leicestershire, 35)
Simon Katich (Lancashire, 34)
I must confess, I too raised an eyebrow at the signing of Jayasuriya in particular, but have that collection of players proved failures? No, not really. They've collected 915 runs at a collective average of 26, which isn't great, it puts them just on the cusp of the top 50 averages in the country. Their collective strike rate however is more impressive, 131 runs per 100 balls, and if you take out Hodge who's had a horrible season, that goes up to 141. Not failures, but not spectacular successes either.
So what about the bowlers? There are only three overseas pure bowlers signed by counties in 2010 over the age of 33:
Murali Kartik (Somerset, 33)
Dirk Nannes (Notts, 34)
Charl Langeveldt (Derbyshire, 35)
I don't think anyone would really call those three 'has beens', but I've set my criteria and I'll stick to it! The three of them cannot said to be failures by any measure. They've picked up 25 wickets at a collective average of 25, and a strike rate of 21. Their economy rate has been good too, 7.1 which puts them comfortably among the top 50 county players. I think a bowler who picks up wickets along those lines would be valued in most attacks, though it isn't spectacular.
And the allrounders? Well this is where Bumble is proved bang wrong, the three allrounders who made it into my calculations are:
Chaminda Vaas (Northants, 36)
Scott Styris (Essex, 34)
Andrew Symonds (Surrey, 35)
What do you want from your Twenty20 allrounders? Ideally quick runs, and cheap wickets without giving away too many runs. These three have done that (mostly) in spades. Their collective batting average is 29, at a strike rate of just a tick under 150. And they've picked up wickets too, 36 between them (half of them from Vaas who is the leading wicket taker in the country) at under 18 apiece, and a strike rate of around 14. The economy rate is good too, though Symonds' apalling figures in a couple of games has rather ruined that.
So was Bumble right to call it 'madness'? No, I don't think so. I agree that counties should be looking to invest in their youngsters before splashing the big cash on star names who bring questionable amounts on the cricketing front, but in one way or another almost all of the above players have contributed. And I haven't even taken into account the catching and fielding of the likes of Gilchrist, Gibbs and Symonds, not to mention that positive impact they might have on the young players at clubs.
I think a balance needs to be found in Twenty20, was it Tendulkar who said that the younger players bring a brand of fearless cricket in T20, that is true but circumstances sometimes require an experienced old hand to bring a side home. So basically I've written all that guff and just come back to the fact that to succeed you need a mix of youth and experience, which most of us already knew. Oh well!
Test Cricket's 10K Club
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