Are overseas players damaging or improving Zim cricket

HARARE - After the revamping of Zimbabwe’s domestic cricket system three years ago, many developments have taken place.

One of the most noticeable developments is the inclusion of overseas-based players who have come to play here in the off season.

This isn’t an entirely new development however, the country has had many overseas professional cricketers play for various clubs, provinces and franchises and the majority of players have always welcomed the players with open arms.

After all, Zimbabwe isn’t the only country who have overseas players forming part of its first-class cricket, the English county circuit has a number of overseas players playing for different county sides, and a handful of Zimbabwean players have had the privilege of plying their trade in England which has helped them improve their game both technically and emotionally.

Various Twenty20 competitions around the world can have up to four international players per team.

The last addition of Zimbabwe’s Stanbic 20 competition saw an influx of international players which undoubtedly and significantly raised the standards of the tournament which is exactly what both local fans and the international fraternity would have wanted.

But while all the franchises were packed with star-studded performers, it could also be argued that many of the young fringe players would miss out due to a more experienced and talented player who would be keeping him out of his team.

This may very well be a valid point that could be discussed and debated, but there is no doubt that the inclusion of experienced players does strengthen the respective competitions, which in turn  makes the local players work that much harder to get in to the Zimbabwe ‘‘A’’ side and then graduate to the national team.

Eight years ago, after Zimbabwe Cricket was shaken to it’s very foundations following the resignation of all it’s senior players, the shock wave was also transmitted to first-class and club cricket as the standard of play took a sickening plunge which has still in some ways left cricket reeling, although there has been an improvement over the last three years as batsmen now are able to construct innings of real authority and class and many of the bowlers are now forced to dig deep and work much harder for their wickets.

Most of the matches also run the full four days which shows that first-class cricket has improved.

This may very well be due to the fact that the inclusion of international players has strengthened the competition.

One’s obvious inclination would be to warp about the future of players and wonder how they would be recognised with the inclusion of overseas players.

If there is any cause for concern, it should be address: it may be a good idea to get the overseas players involved with schools, especially those schools who are less fortunate than the more recognised schools.

Former Midwest coach Jason Gillespie for example always insisted that the entire squad spent time with school kids when they weren’t playing first-class cricket.

The overseas players could do something similar as well and there is no doubt that the younger fringe players will benefit hugely from an experienced player.

So when you weigh up the pros and cons, the pros most definitely outweigh the cons, as the players, fans and administrators will all benefit. - Dean du Plessis

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