James Franklin signs for Middlesex
New Zealand allrounder James Franklin has signed a two-year deal with Middlesex, a move that will end his international career.
Franklin, a veteran of 179 international appearances for New Zealand, will - subject to clearance from the ECB - qualify as a non-overseas player courtesy of Irish ancestry. Both parties have the option to extend the deal by another year if mutually agreed.
Franklin, who will continue to captain Wellington until the end of the 2014-15 season, last represented New Zealand in a Test just over two years ago. While he has not played an ODI since June 2013, he was part of New Zealand's 30 probables for the World Cup squad. He is expected to relocate to London permanently with his family and acknowledged the decision will end his international career.
He will effectively replace Gareth Berg, the allrounder whose retirement through injury last year left a gaping hole in the Middlesex team.
"Whilst I'm very honoured to be joining Middlesex for the next few years, I want to first take my cap off to Wellington, for whom I've had a hugely enjoyable and memorable career in New Zealand," Franklin said. "It's been an absolute privilege to play for Wellington for over 15 years.
"Although this decision closes the chapter on playing for New Zealand again I know I've been incredibly fortunate to have spent over a decade being involved playing international cricket, and have had some of my greatest memories and experiences in cricket playing with the Silver Fern on my cap."
The news will not delight everyone. Middlesex do not have the most impressive record of producing home-grown players and the recruitment of another experienced international from another country - especially one whose bowling has been restricted by injury recently - will be interpreted, by some, as another misuse of funds. The fact that Middlesex's director of cricket, Angus Fraser, is also an England selector, will only infuriate further.
Fraser would counter that, by increasing the quality of county cricket and by bringing in a role-model professional from whom younger players can learn, he is improving the standard of the game and minimising the gap between the domestic and international games. More pertinently, he is improving Middlesex's chances of winning a trophy.
"I'm delighted to have secured James' services," Fraser said. "At the end of the 2014 season we sat down to analyse our shortcomings and felt that we needed to add quality, consistency and nous to our squad. James will provide this. He is fit, strong and motivated. He has a lot to offer and continues to perform to a high level wherever he plays.
"The loss of Gareth Berg through injury in 2014 was a hugely important factor as the season progressed. His absence prevented us from fielding a balanced side and his overs were missed. Despite James not having bowled with great frequency over the winter for Wellington, due to a side strain, we are confident that come April, his fitness levels will enable him to more than fill that role, offering both experience and variety as a left arm-seamer."
Middlesex, who endured a prolonged struggle to avoid relegation in 2014 and did not enjoy much joy in limited-overs cricket, also recently announced the return of Nick Compton to Lord's.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo