South African born cricketers in England: The interesting history of cricket in South Africa
The English cricket team has embarked on their first bilateral tour in the Covid-19 era to take on South Africa in 3 T20s and 3 ODIs. Although the series will be remembered for the positive covid test that cut the tour short, we still saw some serious hitting on display. Despite this, there’s an interesting stat that we had stumbled upon.
England has been home to cricketers born in various nations from around the world, 108 out of 743 (~15%) to be exact, however, none more than South Africa. That’s right – a total of 18 South African born cricketers have gone on to represent England’s national cricket team. In this blog, we explore the various reasons why the English cricket team has had so many South African born cricketers represent them at the highest level.
The early years of cricket in South Africa
The South African cricket team emerged as a quality international cricket team in the early 1900s. In the post-war years, they regularly toured Australia, England and South Africa. However, upon leaving the Commonwealth in May 1961, South Africa also lost its ICC membership. In 1964, when the rules were changed to include non-commonwealth members in the ICC, South Africa did not re-apply.
The bigger issue in South Africa was that of racial segregation. No non-white player was eligible to play test cricket for South Africa from the year 1948 until the end of Apartheid in 1990. When the anti-apartheid movement led the ICC to suspend South Africa from tours in 1970, it shattered the dreams of many budding cricketers in South Africa. That is why the likes of Allan Lamb and Robin Smith migrated to England in order to pursue cricket as a career.
The Kolpak Rule and financial security
After being reinstated as a test nation in 1990, South Africa quickly established themselves as one of the top teams in the world. However, the Kolpak rule, introduced in 2003, stated that people from nations that have an association agreement with the European Union have the same employment rights as citizens from the European Union. This meant that South African cricketers would not be considered as overseas players in English county cricket, thus opening up the number of positions that they could fight for.
A county cricket stint – what initially started as an option at the latter stage of their career soon became a lucrative option for South African cricketers. County cricket offered South African cricketers an opportunity to secure their families’ financial security by earning substantially more on a Kolpak contract, as a result of the weakness of the South African Rand vs the British Pound.
South Africa introduced a new law for their national team in 2016. The law dictated that the national team must field at least six players of colour, two of whom were ‘Black-African’. The same rule was applied across all provincial cricket for years prior. This rule has now expanded to the national cricket team. This led to more cricketers fearing for their chances of representing their national team, as well as their financial security.
With Brexit around the corner, many more cricketers have signed contracts with country cricket sides under the Kolpak rule. The implications of Brexit will mean that the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the European Union. That would result in the Kolpak rule being invalid for South African cricketers in county cricket.
With multiple challenges posing them, some South African born cricketers have migrated to England and represented the national team. While the reasons listed above do not apply for all South African born cricketers to have represented England, it is clear that moving to England has helped players secure their future.
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List of South African born cricketers to represent England:
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