County cricket in many ways gets a bad rap nowadays. Many of the younger generation of players seem more interested in playing for some franchise side which no one in Lancashire has ever heard of than representing the county that developed them: the likes of Liam Livingstone virtually never appear for Lancashire, particularly in red ball cricket, due to his wish to play for every franchise going.
Steven Croft, Lancashire’s longest serving player, is in some ways a throwback, as he has spent his whole career with the Red rose county, and has never agitated for a move away, as far as I can tell. That said, he is also a “three dimensional” cricketer- still at 37 years young old of the best fielders in the side, an adaptable batsman who can also bowl particularly in one day cricket (although his off spin is seen less frequently these days). He is in many ways a perfect T20 cricketer and has batted at 3 in the blast this season with considerable success. We can only hope he is not taken away from Old Trafford by the monstrosity that is The Hundred, and that he plays for another season at least.
Players certainly move around more than they once did, and as a larger and wealthier county Lancashire certainly are happy to sign players when it suits them- Luke Wells and Phil Salt more recent additions to the squad who have added quality and depth. Players who are multi-format are more sought after than ever, and the profusion of English players now performing globally in various T20 leagues speaks greatly of where many modern players priorities now lie. If a player calculates that they are unlikely to make the England Test team then red ball cricket inevitably loses relevance, and it seems more and more players will choose to become T20 specialists, touring the globe to maximise their earnings.
Back then to Crofty. It is strange in many ways that he has not played more in the overseas leagues, a few appearances for Auckland almost 10 years ago not withstanding. He remains a formidable batsman with power and range of shot, particularly square of the wicket, and has played every game this season.
In an era that seems to celebrate denigrating the county game and what it stands for, it is good that there is still the odd stalwart out there to remind us that some players still devote the vast majority of their career to their home town club. We should enjoy them when we can.