Cricinfo XI

Dodgy overseas signings

When they are good, they are very, very good but when they are bad, they are awful. Imports that did not work out

Steve Pittard and John Stern

May 24, 2007

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When they are good, they are very, very good but when they are bad, they are awful. Steve Pittard and John Stern select from the imports that did not work out



A familiar story ... Sourav Ganguly is cleaned up on county duty © Getty Images
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1 Sourav Ganguly
The imperious Indian - dubbed 'Lord Snooty' - deigned to represent Lancashire in 2000. At the crease it was sometimes uncertain whether his partner was a batsman or a batman being dispatched to take his discarded sweater to the pavilion or carry his kit bag. But mutiny was afoot among the lower orders. In one match Ganguly, after reaching his fifty, raised his bat to the home balcony, only to find it deserted. He did not inspire at Glamorgan or Northamptonshire either. At the latter in 2006 he averaged 4.80 from his four first-class appearances.

2 Ian Botham
Beefy proved Queensland's most ill-advised import since the cane toad. His cricket was decent (646 runs at 34; 29 wickets at 27) and he helped his side to the Sheffield Shield final. But his cavalier approach came to a head on the flight to Perth for that final. Botham intervened in an argument between the captain Allan Border and Greg Ritchie. "Some of the passengers started to get agitated," Botham wrote. "Someone started complaining about the language. I put my hands on his shoulders, redirected his gaze to the front and told him to mind his own business." Botham was found guilty of assault, fined £400 and had his contract terminated.

3 John Buchanan
A bit like Brian Clough's 44-day reign at Leeds United, Buchanan's single season at Middlesex is a curious stain on an otherwise spotless coaching CV. Fresh from guiding Queensland to their first two Sheffield Shield titles, 'Buck' brought all his technical know-how and left-field thinking to Lord's and received a less-than-warm reception from Middlesex's old sweats. The county finished second-bottom in the Championship and Buchanan resigned. Mike Gatting replaced him and improved one place in the table. Buchanan has had only one job since.

4 Shaun Tait
Australia's 'Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year' arrived late-season for Durham in 2004 but had barely touched down before being thrown into battle against Somerset. He hit the ground staggering as he conceded 21 no-balls in 12 jet-lagged overs and was clobbered for 113 runs. In his next match he was permanently withdrawn from the attack after his six overs disappeared for 63.



Collins Obuya: Warwickshire's mystery spinner © TWC
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5 Collins Obuya
The 2003 World Cup was the ultimate shop window for Kenya's 21-year-old legspinning allrounder who supplemented his meager cricket income by selling tomatoes. Having helped his country to the semi-finals, Obuya was snapped up by Warwickshire. He played two Championship matches taking 3 for 180 before getting injured. Not so much a Bear with a sore head as a sore knee. "Warwickshire wanted a mystery spinner," said Wisden. "The mystery was why they thought a player with such a moderate career record would be a match-winner."

6 Steve Elworthy
The South Africa bowler, who was essentially a stand-in for Wasim Akram, had a torrid time at Lancashire in 1996, taking only 26 Championship wickets at 41 in 11 matches. He still confidently expected to be chosen for the B&H final, however, and flew in his whole family, but embarrassingly he was dropped on the morning, temporarily leaving the ground in despair. He called it the worst day of his life, though this claim may have been premature. Lancashire dropped him for the NatWest final, too, and in the 1999 World Cup semi-final he was run out in the penultimate over as South Africa infamously choked.

7 Shoaib Akhtar
The 100mph paceman headed for Worcestershire in 2005 but the 'Rawalpindi Express' was soon labelled the 'Rawalpindi Rickshaw' as - often unfit and seemingly uninterested - he played only four Championship games. The chairman, John Elliott, said: "Players like that are no good to our club. In fact, Shoaib has been no good for any club he's been at. He's a superstar and just does what he wants.

8 Hugh Gore
Mention of the Antiguan's name can still make Somerset supporters cringe. Looking to fill Joel Garner's huge boots, Gore was recommended by Viv Richards, his team-mate of three years previous. But Gore had played little cricket since and arrived overweight and of military-medium pace. Struggling with fitness he laboured through 11 first-class games, taking 14 wickets at 47 apiece. Though he was only 27 his cricket career was finished.

9 Elvis Reifer
Importing West Indian pacemen regardless of ability or experience became a craze in the 1980s, so Hampshire welcomed Elvis. 'Return to Sender' would have been the wisest option as the left-armer's scattergun deliveries took 38 expensive Championship wickets at 42, before he was demoted to second change for the 2nd XI - going wicketless. Then he was gone for good and played only one more first-class match.

10 Hugh Page
In 1987 Essex were the reigning County Champions but were without Allan Border, their leading run-scorer from the previous season. His overseas replacement was Hugh Page, a South African pace bowler who, according to Wisden, "was constantly called for no-balling ... and found that bowling a consistent line and length was a demanding task in English conditions". He took 25 Championship wickets at 33. It was a bad summer for Essex, whose captain, Graham Gooch, had a miserable early-season spell when he made two pairs in three matches.

11 Murray Sargent
People scoffed at the selection of Ashley Giles for the 2006-07 Ashes, merely to bolster a fragile tail. Whoever heard of a specialist No.8 batsman? Well, there was MAJ Sargent for Leicestershire in 1952 - who did not even bowl. He was no ageing amateur but a young Australian, who later opened for South Australia. He scored 178 runs from 18 innings and was 222nd in the averages (11.86).

© The Wisden Cricketer

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