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Willis: Hick and Ramprakash 'clogging up county cricket'

Former England captain Bob Willis says that ex-international players like Mark Ramprakash, Dominic Cork and Graeme Hick are 'clogging up' county cricket to the detriment of the national side.

Writing in the October issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine, Willis is also scathing of 'so-called' English players like Stuart Law and Nic Pothas, who he says are never likely to play for their adopted country.

"That underlines the shortcomings in county cricket, which is clogged up with old England players like Dominic Cork, Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick, so-called English players like Nic Pothas and Stuart Law - who are not going to get picked for England - then Kolpaks and overseas players. The England team generates all the money for these wages and the counties spend it on players who will never play for England. This is counter-productive," says Willis, who advocates that domestic cricket should embrace a premier league of just six top teams.

"My vision for first-class cricket is a premier league of six teams - the same as Australia in the Pura Cup - with all the best English qualified players playing; 18 counties spreads the talent too thinly. The standard of cricket in the bottom seven of Division Two is not high enough to produce England cricketers. Nottinghamshire and Somerset are way better than the rest."

Willis said he was "completely anti-overseas players, Kolpaks and non-qualified players," but believed that an effective transfer system would be good for the national team. "I want the best England qualified cricketers playing against one another all the time in a 10-game season so that centrally contracted players can also play. But county chairmen are not forward thinking enough to consider an official transfer system."

And more bad news for the counties is contained in his prediction that the weakest clubs will eventually go out of business. "The weakest teams will lose all their good players to the stronger and go out of business. Then again, without money changing hands, the transfer system is already here. There used to be restrictions on players moving but, thanks to employment law, you cannot restrict where people want to make a living. And ultimately that is a good thing for England."

Willis has been a long-time critic of the county system. More than a decade ago he advocated the abolition of the traditional county structure and its replacement with teams based on cities, so London would play Birmingham and Manchester would compete with Leeds.