2020 has seen sport change in a dramatic way with many sporting tournaments and competitions affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Cricket has been stricken profusely by the pandemic with many tournaments both internationally and domestically postponed due to the inability to travel across the world.
The European season has been affected the most with the pandemic peaking throughout the European summer crippling events across the continent. England’s county cricket season was scheduled to start in April, though four months later the competition was finally able to take place, with matches returning on the first weekend of August.
Whilst the cricket had returned one facet of the county season was missing, the elite contingency of overseas players from across the globe. The uncertainty regarding international travel combined with the impending summers of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand has seen county cricket unable to host international talent in the competition this season.
The loss of international players represents an opportunity for counties to experiment with European Associate players for the 2020 season.
With travel restrictions in place and uncertainty around the international cricket calendar for the rest of 2020 the opportunity to integrate European based Associate players into county cricket would not only benefit Associate players with being able to be in a professional set up, but also allows counties to have access to talented cricketers from across Europe for their teams.
Many Associate based players have taken to the field in the first round of the competition with notable names such as Ryan Ten Doeschate, Delray Rawlins and Josh Davey representing the Associate world within the county set up. On top of this, several other Associate players have been involved within county setups at a youth level or throughout 2nd XI cricket with players such as Jersey’s Jonty Jenner and Nick Ferraby, alongside Danish player Freddie Klokker, all featuring for county rosters in their careers.
For Associate players, the experience of being involved in an elite county set up would be invaluable, as both consistent training and playing opportunities appear slim in the near future.
The addition of an associate spot has been trialled around the world with the Caribbean Premier League reserving one spot in each team to a player within the ICC Americas set-up, with the rise of American quick Ali Khan well-documented, alongside prolific Canadian batsmen Nitish Kumar.
Cricket in Europe continues to develop in leaps and bounds with Ireland joining England as full members of the ICC and both the Netherlands and Scotland continuing to push their climbs as elite associate nations alongside developing countries such as Jersey, Italy and Denmark. The addition of an associate spot would not only improve the standard of county cricket as a whole but allow talented associate players the chance to test their skills against some of England’s best.
With a county season as affected as the 2020 season has been to date, it represents the perfect opportunity for teams across England to trial the move as associate players seek the opportunity for consistent cricket in 2020 and counties find a roster spot or two open up due to the loss of internationals for the season.
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