Lancashire announced the signing of West Indian batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul and South Africa wicket-keeper Dane Vilas on Kolpak deals, on Friday (January 27).
The signings will further intensify the debate about Kolpak players and the impact an increasing number of such cricketers will have on the opportunities for home-grown English players. As we reported in early January, Vilas, who has signed a two-year contract, has had his eye on a Kolpak deal for some time and is the seventh South African player to go down that route this winter. The signing of a 42 year-old in Chanderpaul will also raise eyebrows.
The Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) has previously expressed its concern at the recent developments and it is understood that there have been discussions between high-ranking officials at Cricket South Africa (CSA) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) about the number of Kolpak signings, with both organisations lamenting the effects of having so many players in their systems that do not qualify for either South Africa or England. The idea of limiting the number of Kolpak players in South African domestic cricket will be discussed at a CSA board meeting later in the day on Friday, and could even be formally adopted.
For Lancashire’s part, both Vilas and Chanderpaul, who are available for all competitions, will add much needed experience to an otherwise young squad. South African Alviro Petersen, who scored over a thousand Championship runs for the club last season, has been banned for two years on corruption charges and the retirement of all-rounder Tom Smith and the likelihood of Haseeb Hameed being away with England’s Test side for the second half of the summer meant Lancashire needed reinforcements.
Glen Chapple, Lancashire’s head coach, said, “We’re delighted to bring two experienced international batsmen into the Club ahead of the new season. Shivnarine and Dane will form an important part of our side in 2017. We’re thrilled to be able to bring Shivnarine back. The talented squad at Lancashire is very young and Shivnarine will bring a healthy level of experience to help guide them. Whilst Shivnarine will undoubtedly have an important role to play on the field, his role off the field will be of huge importance to our young players.”
On Vilas, Chapple said, “Signing a player of Dane’s undoubted calibre and experience is a great boost as we continue our preparations ahead of the new season. He has an excellent record in First Class cricket and is a very good wicket keeper. Dane’s aggressive batting style will see him as an important part of our T20 and one-day sides in 2017, as well as four day cricket.”
Criticism of Lancashire’s decision to sign Vilas and Chanderpaul on Kolpak deals should be tempered by their commitment in recent times to developing their own talent. As well as Hameed, their squad is full of several highly talented young players including 23-year-old batsman Liam Livingstone who averaged 50 in last season’s Championship and bowler Matthew Parkinson, 20, who took five wickets on his first-class debut against Warwickshire. The Club’s Academy, recently audited by the ECB, was ranked second only to Durham, for producing young home-grown players.
Of the two, it is Chanderpaul’s signing which is perhaps the most contentious. He has scored 30 Test centuries for the West Indies and has been in good form recently for Guyana but will turn 43 in August and it remains to be seen whether he can have an impact against the attacks in Division One of the Championship. While he has been an exceptional player, and his experience will undoubtedly help Lancashire’s young batsman, he is clearly past his best and many will ask whether his place would better be given to a young English home-grown player.
Conversely, 31 year-old Vilas is still in the prime of his career. Those who see the positives of such Kolpak signings point to how these players can improve the overall quality of the county game and Vilas is a proven player with plenty left to offer. Despite a run of poor form in South Africa – in five completed first-class matches this season he has scored just 93 runs for the Cobras – he averages a shade under 40 in first-class cricket and is an excellent one-day player.
Whereas Chanderpaul has already retired from international cricket, by signing a Kolpak deal, Vilas will no longer be available for South Africa. Although he was South Africa’s backup keeper on their tour of Australia last year, his poor form this season meant he was unlikely to make the squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand. This will, however, force South Africa’s selectors to have a serious think about who their back-up Test keeper for the future might be, particularly as the ongoing absence of AB de Villiers means they will need a reserve on overseas tours.
Knights wicketkeeper Rudi Second gave his prospects of being selected for the New Zealand tour a lift by scoring 151 on the opening day of their ongoing clash with the Warriors in Bloemfontein on Thursday (January 26), making him the fifth-highest run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series with 546 at an average of 60. Mangaliso Mosehle is another contender, particularly after making an impressive start to his international career during South Africa’s Twenty20 series with Sri Lanka, although he is better suited to the limited-overs formats.