Grant Flower: will join his brother Andy at Essex next season © Getty Images

Brian Taylor, the former Essex captain, has criticised his county's decision to sign Grant Flower. Flower, 33, has agreed a two-year deal, and will play next season as a non-overseas player under the "Kolpak" ruling, which allows sportsmen from countries with trade links with the European Union to ply their trade without restrictions.

"It is one that cannot be in the county's best interests," said Taylor. "The number of British-born players fielded by counties has declined rapidly over the years, and is something that needs to be sorted out.

"At the last count there were around 60 from overseas here," he added, "some for only a couple of games to cover for other players who were either injured or wanted by their countries for various tournaments. That's a ridiculous state of affairs and does nothing to encourage our own youngsters to take up the game."

However, Taylor, who played 532 matches for Essex between 1949 and 1973 and captained them from 1967 until his retirement, insisted that he has nothing against overseas players coming to England to make a living out of cricket - he is just shocked at the sheer number of foreign players being brought into the county game these days . "When they were first allowed to play I was all for it. But in those early days only the truly world-class stars came over."

Flower played 67 Tests and 219 one-dayers for Zimbabwe before announcing his retirement from international cricket at the beginning of August. He played a leading role in the recent dispute between the so-called rebel players and the Zimbabwean board. His addition means that Essex will have three Zimbabwean-born players in their squad next year, providing Scott Brant, their overseas fast bowler, returns next season, as well as Danish Kaneria, the Pakistani legspinner, and the South African-born allrounder Ryan ten Doeschate.