DEVON League clubs have been urged not to start tearing up contracts signed and sealed with overseas players just yet.
The warning comes from the ECB as clubs start to consider how they can reduce overheads while no cricket is being played due to the coronavirus suspension.
Clubs at all levels in the Tolchards Devon Cricket League sign overseas players off all abilities every summer to give their teams a boost.
Many are just good amateur cricketers from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, who take four or five months off work to play cricket in a different environment.
Some are UK passport holders through one or both parents who are exempted from the full force of overseas player regulations and restrictions.
At the top level of Tolchards Devon League cricket are First Class professionals, labelled as Tier Five players, recruited through agents, who come to the UK as paid players.
Brian Chari (Bovey Tracey), Faisal Riaz (Plymouth) and Anthony Alleyne (Paignton) all played as Tier Five professional players in last season’s Premier Division. They are the type players the ECB is warning clubs to be careful about.
The first piece of advice from the ECB concerning overseas players is short and to the point and targets league officials.
“Leagues should not be recommending blanket bans,” says the ECB statement.
Advice on how to deal with contracted players, the advice is more detailed.
“The Government advises UK citizens against non-essential travel anywhere in the world until further notice.
“For any club with questions or concerns about currently contracted overseas players, they should speak to the (players’) agent, their legal representative and their committee before deciding on the next course of action.”
Heathcoat, the defending Premier champions, were expecting Aussie spinner Shea Gribben as their overseas player.
Pete Randerson, the Heathcoat captain, said Gribben may not make it to Knightshayes at all.
“At the moment Shea cannot leave Australia even if he wanted to,” said Randerson.
“It is a case of waiting to see what happens and if we have a season to play?
“I cannot see how promotion and relegation is going to work so we may not have an overseas player this year.”
Sandford recruited Zimbabwean Timycen Maruma, a batter and leg-spin bowler, for their Premier Division campaign.
Richard Foan, the Sandford captain, said with the season looking like a write-off he doubts Maruma will be flying in.
“Timycen will only come if needed and if the season does not happen I don’t think we will need him,” said Foan.
Bradninch, aiming to go at least one better than last season when they were third in the A Division and missed promotion, had plumped for Kiwi keeper-batter Jesse Vertongen.
Eliot Acton, the Bradninch captain, said given the uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus Crisis the club had to be realistic.
“I cannot see us playing cricket this year so everything is on hold for now,” said Acton.
Premier side Paignton intended overseas player is South African batter Josh Richards. Tim Ward, the Paignton chairman, doubts there will be a decision to be made.
“My opinion is the decision will be made for us by players’ agents saying it is not safe to come here, or by our Government,” said Ward.
“If the government decides there will be a lockdown no one is coming in from anyway.
“If this crisis escalates as expected I anticipate we will know about a lockdown by early April. By the time we start playing any cricket it will be halfway through the season.”
Mike Pugh, the cricket manager at A Division side Torquay, has similar views to Ward.
“It is impossible to say where we will be in six or seven weeks time when the season should be under way,” said Pugh.
“We have not made a decision yet, but I reckon it will be taken out of our hands by events that force the Government to take tough action.”
Torquay have contracted pace-bowling all-rounder Sajedul Islam, who has played Test and T20 cricket for Bangladesh on top of playing around 100 first class matches.
One of many clubs in a dilemma about their overseas player is Ivybridge, who were hoping to have Sri Lankan paceman Sahan Adessha assisting them in the B Division this season.
Adessha has not said he won’t be coming, but Ivybridge treasurer John Sparkes feels it is unlikely.
“We have not said to Sahan ‘don’t come’ and he has not said he won’t be coming,” said Sparkes.
“Having said that we have spoken and I think it is unlikely he will be coming over.
“Sahan has got his visa sorted out, but has not booked a flight due to all the uncertainty.
“We have got no idea when the season my start – if it starts at all – and what sort of cricket we will end up playing. There will come a point when it won’t be worth Sahan coming over for our benefit or his.”
A number of clubs with non-professional overseas players have already had notification from their recruits that they are unlikely to come over to the UK this year.
“Jordan Connor, a young South African, was keen to come over and play for us this summer, but having talked to the agent that now seems unlikely,” said Jonathan Goulder, the Plympton chairman.
“The agent has taken a pragmatic view that if cricket is suspended there is no point Jordan coming over.”
Tavistock, where skipper Shaun Daymond expects to make a belated start to is ninth season at the helm, say they have made no decision about their overseas player yet.
“Dom Snyman, our overseas player from South Africa in 2018, is lined-up to come over and play for us again – if there is anything to play for,” said Daymond.
“His visa is in place but no flight has been booked as we are waiting to see what happens?
“If there is no competitive cricket this season then we won’t be getting an overseas player.”