With his revelations in his autobiography, Time to Declare , Michael Vaughan has again opened up the question of the suitability of players performing for an adopted country over the country of their birth.
Vaughan has criticised Jonathan Trott for allegedly celebrating with the South African team after their victory at Edgbaston (Trott’s home ground), when he had been twelfth man for the England team earlier in the series.
Vaughan described it as “a sad day for English cricket” and argued that “you might wish Trott was a bit more English” while complimenting the Warwickshire batsman’s ability, and suggesting that he might be “a more stubborn version of Kevin Pietersen”.
Trott, who made a very successful debut in the Ashes-winning England side at The Oval this past summer, ignored the specifics of the allegations in his response, merely noting that he was fully committed to England and had “spent seven years working hard to be able to wear the Three Lions”.
Yet, Vaughan’s comments are bound to re-ignite the question over the commitment of individuals who were born elsewhere to the England cause, though Vaughan himself apparently had few reservations in including Pietersen in his team, despite his well publicised decision to switch his allegiance to England to gain a better chance of playing Test cricket .
This is hardly the first time that such questions have been asked, but clearly they become more prominent in defeat than in victory. England’s 1992 14-man World Cup squad, which were runners-up in the tournament, featured eight foreign-born players (DeFreitas, Hick, Lamb, Lewis, Pringle, Reeve, Small, and Smith), and this was rarely mentioned.
Should Trott, Pietersen, or Strauss fail to perform in South Africa this winter, will they be subject to further scrutiny regarding where their true allegiance lies?
In the past, the likes of Chris Lewis and Devon Malcolm have had their commitment questioned as a result of their Caribbean heritage. It is not an issue limited to cricket—how many times do we hear of Premiership football imports being less enthusiastic during the colder months?
Yet, such accusations have never been bounded by facts. Nobody accused Malcolm of lack of commitment when he was reducing the South African batting to smithereens at The Oval in 1994, nor the background of Allan Lamb when he was making centuries in the West Indies.
No, these characterisations are merely used as an unproven stick with which to beat a player after he has failed to live up to expectations.
This is an issue that seems to resonate across the media—for some reason we like to build up our heroes just so that we can tear them down again.
We need to encourage our players, not vilify them. We should support them when they fail as much as when they succeed. We shouldn’t be questioning their commitment when they’ve simply had a bad day at the office.
By all means, if they prove not to be good enough to continue to represent England—if their performances on the field could be bettered by others—then of course their selection should be reviewed, but not on the basis of their origins, on their form.
That such players have chosen to represent England over their birth country should be seen as a compliment, not a threat. If their allegiance was ever in doubt, surely they would not have gone through the necessary qualifying period? They want to play for England, so let us not doubt that desire.
The debate is sure to rumble on.