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Australia act on player drain with 'Robson rule'

Daniel Brettig

August 16, 2013

Comments: 74 | Text size: A | A

Sam Robson made his second consecutive century, Warwickshire v Middlesex, County Championship, Division One, Edgbaston, 1st day, May 8, 2013
Australia-born batsman Sam Robson recently qualified to represent England © Getty Images

European football had Bosman transfers, English cricket has Kolpak players, and now Australia has passed the Sam Robson rule. At a board meeting on Friday, Cricket Australia approved regulatory changes that will allow dual passport holders to play domestic matches in more than one country.

This has effectively freed Robson from having to choose between New South Wales and Middlesex, allowing him to represent both as England and Australia compete for his international loyalties. The player is not thought to have made any written guarantees to England that he will commit his international future to them.

It was not only Robson who had a new future opened up for him by the changes, as numerous cricketers who had given up their first-class careers in Australia to play as locals in England are once more eligible to play in the Sheffield Shield, limited overs and Big Bash League competitions.

These include the West Australian seam bowler Michael Hogan the NSW batsman Phil Jaques and the Queensland teenager Sam Hain, who joined Warwickshire this year.

"The Board has endorsed changes to the definition of an Overseas Player for Australian domestic competitions," a CA spokesman said. "The changes are designed to allow Australian players who have dual passports to play in more than one domestic competition. CA wants as many quality cricketers playing in its domestic competitions as possible. These changes will allow Australian players with dual passports to play first-class cricket in more than one country.

"A number of Australian-qualified cricketers currently playing in ECB competitions in particular are doing so as a local player, meaning if they play in Australia during the summer they need to do so as an overseas player to retain their ECB eligibility. However, CA's current overseas player definition prevents someone born in Australia, or holding a valid Australian passport, from qualifying to play here as an overseas player.

"Changes approved today will ensure state associations and BBL teams will be able recruit Australian players without them having to give up their eligibility to play overseas as a local player. It will remove the burden on these players to choose which domestic competition to play in."

Robson, whose mother hails from Nottingham, previously could not be chosen for New South Wales as a domestic player because although he was born in Australia he played county cricket on a British passport.

While the changes have greatly enhanced Australia's chances of being able to consider Robson in the future, England may also be able to offer him a chance to play first-class matches during the forthcoming southern summer. An outside chance to be named as a reserve opening batsman in the Ashes squad proper, Robson would be a likely choice for the England Lions squad scheduled to shadow the Test touring party over the course of the series.

Alternatively, Robson may now head home to Sydney at the conclusion of the English summer and turn out first for the Blues' Futures League team, and from there earn selection in the NSW Shield XI for the start of the season. In past seasons he has simply played club cricket while ineligible for first-class duty, but given Australia's current lack of strong batting stock Robson would need only to replicate his consistent scoring for Middlesex to quickly enter international contention.

England's national team has benefitted considerably from the lure of their professional circuit, particularly to South African players who have gone on to qualify for England. The flood of Kolpak players, who are allowed to play county cricket under European Community free labour regulations, has been reduced, however, after a ruling in 2008 enabled the Home Office to introduce a four-year work-permit qualification on players outside the EU.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by 2MikeGattings on (August 19, 2013, 20:27 GMT)

Not quite sure why Robson hasn't already been selected for the Lions, is he not eligible yet?

Posted by   on (August 19, 2013, 5:14 GMT)

Great rule change. Let a guy's loyalties determine where he'll play and not where he might be able to ply a trade as a professional if he turns out to only be a first class player and not a test player.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (August 17, 2013, 19:37 GMT)

@YorkshirePudding point taken but all three of the cricketers you mentioned did their secondary schooling ie up to the age of 18 years at least in Australia. This means they didn't pick up a cricket bat at 19 when they moved to the UK to learn according to you" all their cricket skills in the UK". They obviously started their cricket careers at school level, may I point out in my opinion the foundation level is the most important, which was in Australia. The finishing school may have been after they made the move to the UK, but the foundation to their cricketing careers was in Australia. This in my opinion was the most important phase. I am sure while in Australia they had their ambition to play for Australia. However given the awesome bench strength of Aussies in the 1990s. Their options to play top flight cricket would have been in their opinion limited. So they made the move to England. This was in the 1990s, didn't make a difference, as England still got well and truly trounced.

Posted by OhhhhhMattyMatty on (August 17, 2013, 19:19 GMT)

Robson doesn't have a difficult decision. He either backs his talent or he doesn't. If he thinks playing for Australia is easier and so he will choose them, then he has the wrong attitude and we don't want him. It would show he has no faith in his own talent and his mentality is that of a post 2007 Australian. Not to mention the ECB should immediately classify him as an overseas player and force Middlesex to choose if they want to keep him or not.

Posted by markatnotts on (August 17, 2013, 14:29 GMT)

Check your facts, Paul Mcallister. Compton, Dernbach and Meaker are all products of the English system coming to live here as children. Regarding the Irish players, they have to all intents and purposes products of the county system. Oh and look at the scorecards for the 2010 world T20. England won on the back of a bowling attack limiting the opposition to small totals.

Posted by   on (August 17, 2013, 14:10 GMT)

Barry, the difference being is that Symonds (and Khawaja), is that they both arrived in Australia in nappies. They were schooled in Australia, and are as Baggy Green proud as any player in those respective teams. But can you say the same about any of the 9 Proteas who have represented England since 1994? or the 3 Irishmen? I will concede you Straussy & Prior as they were at least brought up in England. & Boyd Rankin as he is Northern Irish (although I wish he could have hung around to hopefully one day see Ireland become full ICC members). But Eion Morgan and Ed Joyce? come on? Morgan practically won England the 2010 World 20/20 cup single handily after "defecting" to the England team (that should never have been allowed). & Ed Joyce really should have played for Ireland during his best years. But what of KP, Trott, Lumb, Kieswetter, Durnbach, Meaker & Compton? yes I know some of them might have British heritage (but then at least 50% of the Oz, NZ and SA teams have anyway). So what?

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (August 17, 2013, 13:41 GMT)

@RohanMarkJay, Just to correct you on a few points, Dmitri Mascarhenas was born in Chiswick, London, Craig White was born in Morley, West Yorkshire, Allan Mullaly was born in Southend On Sea in Essex.

As far as im aware both Craig and Allan moved to Aus at a young age due to parents relocating, but as far as im aware Dmitri learnt all his cricket in the uk.

You may have been thinking of the Hollioakes, however they did the reverse of what Criag and Allan's familied did, and moved from Aus to the UK, one was 7/8 the other was 12/13.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (August 17, 2013, 12:11 GMT)

Is Sam Robson that good? I haven't seen him and stats can be misleading at times. His stats look decent but not outstanding. I'd have to see him in Australian conditions in the Australian domestic sides before I could say for sure that he warrants a test call up. Average of 41 is good but not necessarily good enough for tests.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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