Boyd Rankin and Fawad Ahmed cases show just where the power lies
Eligibility rules heavily favour keeping the big guns on top
Former Ireland bowler Boyd Rankin bowling during an England net session at Trent Bridge.
Irish cricket followers played a game of will they, won’t they in the past week after England called up former Ireland opening bowler Boyd Rankin as injury cover for their one-day international series against New Zealand.
With England juggling their front-line seamers ahead of the start of the Champions Trophy, their second-string struggled in the opening two losses to the Black Caps, with Tim Bresnan, Jade Dernbach and Rankin’s Warwickshire team-mate Chris Woakes having combined figures of one for 345 in the defeats at Lord’s and the Rose Bowl.
So with a dead rubber to come at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, the expectation was that 6ft 8in Rankin would be handed his England debut, with his exclusion from the Warwickshire side for their Championship clash with Surrey seeming to add weight to the possibility.
When Alastair Cook announced four changes at the toss, it seemed a foregone conclusion , only for the England captain to reveal that Stuart Broad and Steven Finn would return to the bowling attack for a game they went on to win by 34 runs.
Eligible to play
So in the heel of the hunt, Rankin remains eligible to play for Ireland, although the 28-year-old from Derry is presently unavailable for selection in his bid to further his chances of playing Test cricket with England. Had he played against New Zealand, he would automatically have been ineligible to play for Ireland for four years, even if it was to be his one and only appearance.
Introduced by the ICCl to prevent international players from Full Member countries suddenly turning out for Associates at the end of their careers, the stand-down period needs to be revisited, with a reduced period introduced for players from Associate nations making the step up.
The ICC could also look at introducing a threshold of games, that when reached would trigger a stand-down period to stop the unfair situation of a player being handed a couple of caps and then ruled out for their former country for four years.
Rankin could well go on to shine at international level for England, but for every Eoin Morgan there’s players such as Danish-born bowler Amjad Khan, who won his only Test cap on England’s tour to the West Indies in 2009.
Khan has served his stand-down period and the Danish Cricket Board are understood to have begun the process of bringing the Sussex player back into the fold.
The issue of international eligibility is set to be played out in Belfast next week after Cricket Australia announced yesterday that Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed will join their ‘A’ squad for the four-day game against Ireland, which gets underway at Stormont next Friday.
The move comes after the Australian parliament’s house of representatives passed legislation yesterday which will help fast-track Ahmed’s bid for citizenship and could yet see him face England in this summer’s Ashes series if the bill, as expected, is approved at senate level.
Ahmed (31) arrived in Australia in 2010 from Pakistan claiming asylum. Initially refused, Cricket Australia took up his case and he has become the poster boy for the legislation, which is aimed at easing residency requirements for individuals where their becoming a citizen could benefit Australia.
Bowling Australia to an Ashes victory in England would certainly meet those criteria, with the search for a new Shane Warne or Stuart McGill to terrify English batsmen showing the extraordinary lengths they will go to in a bid to win back the urn.
It will be a huge burden for a bowler who has only played 13 first-class games and three for Victoria.
One player who will be interested to see how Ahmed gets on will be Pembroke professional and fellow leg-spinner Brenton McDonald, who ended the Victorian Premier League as joint top-wicket taker with 54 alongside another leggie in Bryce McGain, an Australian one-Test wonder, with Ahmed at 11th in the list, taking 36.
The case of Ahmed may be a world apart from that of Rankin, but both show that the big guns hold all the aces when it comes to deciding who they want to play for them.