There has been plenty of talk around the ground this season about professionals and the future of them in the ‘amateur’ game. I would like to start by placing on record from both myself and the club would our thanks to George Linde for his contribution before he returned home, and to all the sub pros who have stood in for the remainder of the season. It is stating the obvious of course to say that there can be absolutely no criticism of George leaving. He has a long cricketing career ahead of him to take care of , I’m sure everyone will wish him the very best with that & watch his performances for South Africa A and now the full squad in the T20 series in India, with great interest 

Like most founding members of the Lancashire League, the names of past professionals are often an envious list of ‘past greats.’ International cricketers such as Clive Rice, Keith Arthurton and Michael Clarke are some that come to mind from Acre Bottom.  More recently Brenton Parchment, Faf Du Plessis, Alex Doolan, Shanan Stewart, Pieter Malan (2 seasons), Daryn Smit (3 seasons), Grant Thomson, Seni Muthusamy, Werner Coetsee and George Linde have come and gone. In that crop; four have played international cricket with Seni and George hopefully joining this list in the not too distant future. I must be honest in saying that the signing of ‘Faf’ was certainly a last-minute engagement and came as a result of current Australian batsman Usman Khawaja pulling out a month before the season.

I can only speak from my own experiences and give you my own opinion. Although some clubs may disagree with my synopsis; that it’s as difficult now as I’ve ever known it in signing a quality professional. You certainly need a bit of luck along the way. This season alone only a handful of the professionals originally signed for the 2018 season played in the last game of that season. My number one rule is that you need to be honest in terms of loyalty for the sake of being loyal.  For example, not renewing a player’s contract when they score over a thousand runs is never an easy conversation. For the good of the club sometimes a different direction is much needed. 

Over the last two seasons we have signed Seni (Muthusamy) and George (Linde) – both on paper fantastic signings. Unfortunately, neither completed half a season, before being called back to play their country in what was deemed to be an ‘off’ season tour, that was not on the international radar when putting pen to paper. This unfortunately leads to a potentially larger financial outlay for clubs than initially predicted.  Player’s accomodation is often arranged with a six-month lease and whilst The Club saves on weekly wages, the additional fees incurred engaging sub-professionals normally outweigh the wage, especially on a double header weekend. 

This situation is often exacerbated when it comes to Saturdays. It seems that every available professional can charge what they want due to the small number of players available and the often-large numbers of teams wanting them.

Views published previously fall into three camps:

  1. The first, a sizeable group, argue that time is up on signing overseas pros if their retention for all the season cannot be guaranteed. This is virtually impossible if they are at the younger end of their career. The sunk costs in terms of air fares, accommodation etc cannot be recovered and could be financially ruinous – and it does not help in the dressing room, in training or on the field.
  2. The second, also sizeable group while not necessarily agreeing with the view that the role of the overseas pro within amateur cricket is over, do acknowledge that there is a debate to be had on the way forward.  
  3. The third groups is that there is no debate to be had and the current practice of getting the best pro we can, with all the attendant costs and risks should continue.

To be fair to the proponents of the latter view it must be recognised that ability to identify pros move quickly to national representation is a measure of success. 

It is also fair to say not many Professionals fulfil a full season in the current climate unless they are UK based.

Is the overseas Pro a thing of the past?

In my opinion it isn’t, however, UK based players certainly offer an interesting and viable alternative, hence why Mr Smit was a no brainer!

Andy Dalby , Director Of Cricket with contributions from Paul Cropper