County news February 13, 2013

Shah could go freelance - Grayson


Owais Shah could become the first English cricketer to be a full-time freelance player as the growing influence of T20 leagues makes itself felt on county cricket.

Shah, who is currently contracted to Essex, has become a regular on the T20 circuit, appearing in the Big Bash League, the IPL and, most recently, the Bangladesh Premier League. With T20 leagues also set-up in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and new leagues scheduled for the Caribbean and, in theory at least, the USA and Pakistan, Shah may be among the first to decide his future lies as a travelling freelance with no permanent affiliation to any of the first-class counties.

While several players from other countries - the likes of Scott Styris and Dirk Nannes - have already made the decision to pursue their careers as unattached cricketers, no English player has yet successfully managed it. Andrew Flintoff might have been the first had injury not intervened.

Shah's T20 ambitions are understandable. Aged 34 and with very little chance of regaining an England place, he may consider there is little point in continuing a first-class career if it conflicts with opportunities to secure his family's financial future over the last few years of his career by concentrating on T20 cricket. The lure of helping Essex battle their way out of Division Two of the County Championship may well have paled by comparison.

Counties are also growing increasingly uneasy about the disruption caused by players missing part of the domestic season. Nottinghamshire have already forbidden their contracted players from playing in the IPL this year and other counties may, in time, follow suit.

"We continue to assess our options and opinions over the IPL," Essex's head coach, Paul Grayson, told ESPNcricinfo. "Any coach will tell you about the benefits of having a settled team and you just have to look at the success of Derbyshire last year to see that. They got off to a good start and went on to win promotion, while we missed our IPL players for the first seven Championship games and were always playing catch-up.

"Of course we can understand players wanting to take part in these leagues. It's a short career and who wouldn't want to earn as much as they can? We all understand that and not many of us would turn it down. And, to be fair to Ryan ten Doeschate and Owais, the players we will miss this year, they are absolutely committed to Essex whenever they are here.

"But maybe enough is enough. Maybe the time has come to put our foot down. We want our players to be 100 percent committed to Essex and we do have the option of refusing to issue No Objection Certificates if we feel that is the right route to go down. I suppose there is a worry that players might consider moving to another county if we did that, but these are the issues we are continually discussing."

Grayson has previously indicated that the county could follow Nottinghamshire's example in the future.

"The message sent out by Mick Newell, the director of cricket at Nottinghamshire, was very good," Grayson said. "He was saying, 'We're a big club and we have ambitions.' He has good players and he wants to make use of them to win trophies.

"We knew when we signed Owais that he was keen to play in these T20 leagues and we made a verbal agreement with him then. He is contracted to us from June until the end of the season and it may be that, after that, we decide that agreement doesn't work for us anymore. Who knows: maybe he could end up signing a T20 deal with Essex?

"We are going to see freelance players very, very soon and it could be that Owais is one of the first."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • t on February 15, 2013, 23:12 GMT

    @voice_of_reason.. No IPL team in the so called "Champions League" final.. really thats your "evidence"? well maybe not this year but IPL teams've won the title twice. not bad considering its only had 4 editions wouldnt you say?

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2013, 0:49 GMT

    You can see why Shah would do this as his test career is near enough over as he has been unable to produce the high scores and disciplined inings in first class cricket to test matches. Temperament has been the reason why Shah has be unable to cement a place in the England test team. He has the shots but unfortunately now he is past his best in the test format. I still think Shah may have a role to play in the batting line up of the T20 team and possibly the ODI team as he brings experience to the squad. Ive always felt the shorter formats have always suited Shah because of his natural agressive stroke play.

  • MehulG on February 14, 2013, 18:08 GMT

    So, this is good for all cricketers. If you are not selected for your local country level clubs (Please do not mind, but all boards are not country representatives, they are just private companies), but good enough to get a place in such other local clubs and making career from it, then what is wrong in that? In fact, that is how it supposed to be from start. Jobs are created and people are willing to pay. Case of Shah proves that Country level clubs are not interested in talent, they want power. Talented players can be bought and sold any part of world, so they got career. I see it as a good sign.

  • Julian on February 14, 2013, 12:52 GMT

    Soon players will have to decide on whether to be freelance or have the stability of a county contract. However, only T20 players of the quality of Shah will have that luxury.

  • Lesley on February 14, 2013, 11:53 GMT

    @Rahul_78 Not sure what your point is about football clubs. They have always been city based entities and never have and never will be franchises, unlike the US professional sports system which is totally franchised. First class cricket around the world has always been based on regional clubs e.g. counties, states or even islands.

    In football, players are restricted to one club throughout a long season, with only a limited transfer period. When the "Champions League" or equivalent comes around, he plays for the club he is currently contracted to, not the one he played for last year but which wants to retain the rights to his services in the biggest tournaments.

    Too many people try to compare football to the "new order" of cricket. The comparisons don't stack up.

  • Lesley on February 14, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    Ashley, I don't think there was much of a clamour for Shah to be called up into England's T20 squad. The IPL may have glitz and glamour and thousands of screaming fans when a ball gets smashed over the boundary but it lacks quality. There are far too many mediocre home grown players, over the hill former internationals and over rated overseas players. Runs scored/wickets taken in this environment have to be seen for what they are. Evidence? No IPL team in the so called "Champions League" final.

  • mahjut on February 14, 2013, 11:20 GMT

    yadayadayada ... cricket is still going strong. On the whole you have the likes of Tait, Nannes, Shah, (the tatooed English bloke who's a pretty decent allrounder), Hall ... - all ending careers that promised but never took off! or a few youngsters who have some ability but probably no great future...lastly you have players at odds with their boards (this is a little more complex - but one can understand, eg Bravo and Gayle, if not go as far as to condone it). While you may complain that it destroys the game - i think that it was a godsend to Zim cricket last year. It was great to watch our kids playing with the above named lads - facing some serious pace and bowling to some big hitters, just getting some higher standard cricket. It was the only form of cricket in Zim coming close to breaking even financially (i hear) and players were playing for reasonable amounts of money (of course, that may not continue and it may go south ... but I loved every minute of last years Zim T20 tourny

  • Anver on February 14, 2013, 10:21 GMT

    Like mentioned here.... Shah's Eng career is almost over, so this is not a better move to be financially stable for future !!!!

  • Dummy4 on February 14, 2013, 8:45 GMT

    Good for T20 cricket and Owais. While most of the fan followers of english T20 cricket thought a call up was around the corner following IPL 2012, the english management had different plans going ahead with the build up, which to some extent surely dissapointed the man, as at the time other than KP there didn't seem to be anyone striking it rich with runs in the format. Purely on the fact that contributions were collective and Colly made it happen for the 2010 T20 cup. Go for it Owais, this could be twilight; make the best of it. In a couple of years we would probably be having 6 top notch T20 tournaments in the year, so bring it on!!!

  • Ram on February 14, 2013, 7:08 GMT

    I can understand the situation the likes of Shah/Nannes find themselves in. During their early ages, they weren't considered for their national teams and when they are on wrong side of 30's they cant hope to be considered as most selectors group are talking about grooming youth so the only viable option to secure themselves financially is by playing these T20 leagues, and to be fair these guys are very good in that format. If it weren't for these leagues, they would have to end up doing a 9 to 5 job for the next 20 years to live comfortably. Guys - please stop blaming IPL and BCCI for all that's happening in cricket world. Probably BCCI is to be blamed for the asteroid passing by the earth as well!!