The T20 leagues that have sprung up around the world have created a new type of player. Often specialists in short form cricket, the ‘import players’ are mercenaries who travel the world, playing for multiple teams . Many have a marquee role in whatever team they play for, however it is less clear if their impact always measures up. In the recently concluded HRV Cup, import players occasionally carried their teams, but from stars teams look for regular match winning performances.
There are a few examples of spectacular contributions from import players, notably Ryan ten Doeschate and Tamim Iqbal. Both performed consistently with the bat, and more importantly were key parts of winning teams. Andre Adams, originally a New Zealander but now Auckland’s overseas player, also had a strong competition with the ball. Here are two tables which compare how imports compared against each other:
|Ryan ten Doeschate (Ot)||10||401||50.12||154.23||4||40|
|Steven Croft (ND)||10||326||40.75||124.42||2||39|
|Tamim Iqbal (Wg)||6||232||38.66||134.10||2||32|
|James Foster (ND)||8||176||29.33||166.03||0||23|
|Phil Mustard (Ak)||9||168||21.0||127.27||1||21|
|Cameron Borgas (Wg)||6||138||27.60||96.50||1||14|
|Chris Woakes (Wg)||3||62||62.0||182.35||1||8|
And for the bowling:
|Andre Adams (Ak)||7||14||16.00||8.29||1||4-20|
|Kyle Jarvis (CD)||8||5||52.80||9.20||0||3-39|
|Shaun Tait (Wg)||2||4||11.75||5.87||0||2-14|
|Peter Trego (CD)||3||4||15.75||8.04||0||2-30|
|Theo Doropoulos (Wg)||3||4||17.75||8.87||0||3-24|
|Chris Woakes (Wg)||3||4||29.25||9.75||0||3-27|
|Ryan ten Doeschate (Ot)||10||4||31.5||7.87||0||2-27|
|Brad Hodge (Ak)||1||3||5.33||5.33||0||3-16|
Its pretty clear from those tables that the teams who got plenty out of their imports also did well in the competition. Central Districts were particularly poorly served with international players, Lamb, Jarvis and Trego all failed to make an impact on the HRV Cup. Central, normally a strong side in T20, crashed to last place. Their local talent played reasonably well too, Matthew Sinclair especially. Wellington on the other hand enjoyed mostly positive results thanks to their overseas players. Chris Woakes and Doropoulos both had days in the sun, and Iqbal combined with Jesse Ryder at the top of the order to create a formidable opening pair. Borgas was steady, but his slow scoring did cost Wellington at least one loss. Ryan ten Doeschate was the real standout performer among the imports, he could be relied on to always put something on the board, and was a handy part time option with the ball. He had a quieter match in the final, but his team still qualified top and won the competition.
Overall though, in selection a best XI from the HRV Cup, imports would make up only a small proportion of the team. Very few played enough games to really make their mark. RTD would certainly make the team, as would Adams and probably Croft. Apart from that though I don’t believe any imports could lay claim to a spot ahead of a domestic player who performed well. New Zealand players had an advantage in this tournament as many were practically guaranteed to play every match. Some imports, such as Borgas and Hodge, juggled commitments with the HRV Cup and playing in the Big Bash League in Australia.
A strong import player clearly has some effect on the performance of the team as a whole, but it is equally clear that for a team to succeed in this competition the local players need to do the bulk of the work. This is potentially because the HRV Cup is one of the least desirable competitions for international T20 freelancers, especially when it is on at the same time as the Big Bash. The standard of import players is not really much higher than what could be gained from local players. I would expect to see the calibre of import players continue to drop over the next few seasons, as the financial realities of hiring gun players from overseas start to bite. While a player like ten Doeschate might be excellent value, it will be very unlikely that a top international player from a test nation will play for a New Zealand province.