Nixon: Ash­win proves Cham­pi­onship counts

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL NIXON www.paulnixon­cricket.com

The County Cham­pi­onship re­ceives a lot of un­fair crit­i­cism from the out­side, but it’s clear the play­ers still value it, as has been shown this week by Worces­ter­shire’s sign­ing of Ravi Ash­win. He has come in to re­place John Hast­ings, who was ruled out with in­jury, and it’s great for the game in Eng­land to have the world’s No.3 Test-ranked bowler play­ing in their first-class com­pe­ti­tion.

Worces­ter­shire have had Saeed Aj­mal in re­cent years, who was a rev­e­la­tion for them and will be hop­ing Ash­win is the same, but for me it’s just good to see In­dian play­ers com­ing over to play.

The big­gest frus­tra­tion for me is that In­dian play­ers don’t go around the world of­ten enough and show­case their skills in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. It might be one of the rea­sons they’re not so strong away from home – their play­ers haven’t had that ex­pe­ri­ence and ac­quired those skills.

They haven’t even played in the Big Bash, and it’s rare to see an In­dian player play first-class cricket out­side their home coun­try. In­dian cricket lose out on learn­ing skills from other na­tions and, of course, other na­tions lose out on the ex­pe­ri­ence these play­ers have.

County cricket is an in­sti­tu­tion and a lot of over­seas do want to play it. Vi­rat Kohli was talk­ing re­cently about po­ten­tially find­ing a county for a stint be­fore the Test se­ries in Eng­land next sum­mer, and that would be bril­liant.

Here in the West Indies, a lot of play­ers want to play in Eng­land. But many fo­cus on T20 com­pe­ti­tions and with the Blast tak­ing place over a num­ber of weeks, of­ten be­ing played only around week­ends, it can be tough to lure them over.

Over­seas play­ers of­ten set­tle in very quickly so sign­ing one isn’t of­ten seen as a risk. It’s why Es­sex and Hamp­shire are do­ing so well with all their sign­ings. These play­ers have com­mit­ted to some­thing and bought into the con­cept.

Ash­win will do well at Worces­ter­shire, not just be­cause he’s a qual­ity player, but be­cause it’s some­thing he wants to do. He wants to im­prove his game and sees Cham­pi­onship cricket as an av­enue for do­ing that.

He’s go­ing to be play­ing Di­vi­sion Two cricket, but that’s all he will be fo­cus­ing

He wants to im­prove his game and he sees Cham­pi­onship cricket as an av­enue for do­ing that

on. He doesn’t have to worry if he’s go­ing to be picked for In­dia, we all know he will be, and can just put all his ef­forts into Worces­ter­shire.

Coun­ties get a good deal, too.You look at South African play­ers and see the Rand is very cheap, so you can pay these play­ers slightly less and both par­ties are get­ting a good deal.

In the mod­ern era, over­seas play­ers will have of­ten played with at least one other from over­seas in most dress­ing rooms. With play­ers go­ing all over the world, there’s not as much hid­ing space and ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­thing about each other.You al­ready know what you’re go­ing to get when sign­ing some­one be­cause you’ve seen them play a hand­ful of com­pe­ti­tions al­ready.

What we have to re­mem­ber is that county cricket is run by se­nior pro­fes­sion­als. And whether they’re from Eng­land or over­seas, they are a huge in­flu­ence on their coun­ties. They are men­tors for young­sters and play a huge role on and off the pitch.

For me, county cricket is be­com­ing slightly younger, in terms of the play­ers in­volved , but you still need your 34year-old pros who are wise old heads that cre­ate calm and sta­bil­ity in a team.

Ev­ery Eng­land player would tell you they had bun­dles of help from the older lads in the chang­ing room, both at county and in­ter­na­tional level. Cricket needs to value these play­ers and help them stay in­volved with the game.You can’t just dis­miss a player be­cause of their age.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Great suc­cess: Saeed Aj­mal bowled bril­liantly dur­ing his spell with Worces­ter­shire

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