If You Could Poach One Player From Another Country, Who Would It Be?

There has been plenty of great cricket in the RLODC over the last week. The pinnacle was probably that dramatic Roses game. What a finish!

It was noteworthy that the crowds were particularly healthy too. The great weather obviously helped, but it clearly shows that there’s still a healthy appetite for domestic 50 over cricket in this country.

What a shame that 50 over cricket – serious first team 50 over cricket – is being shamefully sacrificed to make room for the tawdry Hundred from next year. County cricket won’t even get a traditional showpiece Lord’s final from 2020. It’s a disgrace.

Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on the miserable state of cricket governance in this country today. It’s too miserable. Instead I’d like to have a hypothetical debate as a change of pace.

The question I’d like to ask is one which I’m sure we’ve all had after a few pints in the pub. If England could have one cricketer, just one, from any other country then who would it be?

In years gone by we might have picked an all-rounder – someone who could improve the batting and bowling simultaneously. Imran Khan would’ve been my choice in 1980s. However, because England’s test team has become overrun with all-rounders – blokes who average in the mid-30s (or worse) in both disciplines – I’m more inclined to search for a specialist. Just think how Shane Warne, Mr freespinbonuses.co.uk himself, transformed Australia’s team back in 1992. 

When it comes to England, however, I think we should be looking at a specialist batsman. Although Jimmy Anderson is getting a little long in the tooth, and Stuart Broad isn’t exactly a spring chicken, I still think a world class batsman would help the team more. Here’s why …

England will always take wickets at home in friendly conditions; therefore a seamer like Josh Hazlewood or Trent Boult probably wouldn’t make too much difference. What’s more, although we’ve lacked an out-and-out quick like Pat Cummins in the past, Jofra Archer will be available to provide that extra pace in a few weeks’ time.

I thought long and hard about adding a spinner though. A top class spin bowler would be invaluable both home and abroad (especially the latter) and therefore I think they’d do more to transform our fortunes.

But who would this spinner be? Although I like Ravi Ashwin (when he’s not mankading opponents) his record in England is mixed. I’m not sure that Yasir Shah would be particularly brilliant either – fine bowler though he is. I briefly toyed with the idea of Rashid Khan, but he’s just too much of an unknown quantity at test level. And then there’s Nathan Lyon. Good bowler but no thanks!

The bottom line is that there’s no Shane Warne available at the mo. There’s no once in a generation talent who can basically win games on his own. Yes we could add a very good spinner to the England team, but would he really be that much of an upgrade over the potential right-arm / left-arm combination of Moeen and Jack Leach? Fortunately our existing clutch of all-rounders enables us to play both.

Consequently my focus today is very much on the batsmen. England won’t win many test matches unless they can post totals that give the bowlers something to work with anyway. Our batting has been infuriatingly inconsistent of late, and there’s been very little opportunity to build scoreboard pressure (which can often bring wickets in itself).

With Root ensconced at 4, and a combination of Bairstow, Buttler, and Stokes to follow, I think taking an opener or a quality No.3 is therefore a no-brainer. But who should that man be?

Although I toyed with the idea of poaching Virat Kohli or Steve Smith and asking them to move up the order, this would undermine my preference for picking a specialist to bat in a specialist position. So who does that leave us with?

One option is obviously David Warner, but I refuse to pick the bloke on principle. The idea is to complete a side that can consistently beat the Aussies home and away; therefore removing one of their best players seems a little unsatisfying. I want to beat Australia at their best – not the hopeless Australia that turned up last summer.

It’s a shame in many ways that we’re living in an era where quality openers are thin on the ground. Other than Warner there aren’t many world class alternatives. Aiden Markram is in the top ten in the ICC rankings but he’s only played 17 tests. It would seem a little odd to choose him from the vast pool of test cricketers worldwide. Ditto Tom Latham.

Dimuth Karunaratne is another solid test opener but his career average is a bit underwhelming and his record in England, where he’s made just one half-century in ten tests, is also problematic. Other openers I like include Dean Elgar and Tamin Iqbal, but I’m not exactly salivating at the thought of pairing one of these guys with Rory Burns. Therefore I’d much rather make do with what we’ve got (Roy? Jennings? Gubbins? Denly?) and turn my attentions to poaching a world class No.3.

This is where it gets interesting folks. Really interesting. Two world class No.3s who would instantly make a huge difference to England’s test team immediately spring to mind. I’m talking, of course, about Chesteshwar Pujara and Kane Williamson. Both men average over 50 and have a wealth of experience. Basically they’re both bloody good.

However, if I had to choose between the two then there’s only one winner. And that’s the New Zealand captain. He ticks so many boxes. For starters he averages a whopping 57 at first drop in test cricket. He’s also younger than Pujara (28 years old versus 31) so there should be more miles left in the tank.

Williamson also has lots of captaincy experience so he could step in if Joe Root begins to get overwhelmed. Plus he’s a much better white ball player than Pujara. Imagine adding New Zealand’s greatest ever batsman (apologies to Martin Crowe and Glenn Turner) to our exciting but somewhat erratic ODI side. Williamson would immediately bring stability and nous to a lineup that occasionally struggles to adapt to conditions.

My only slight worry is that Williamson actually averages less in England than he does elsewhere: just 31 with one century. However, this sample size is very small (just 4 tests). I think Williamson would easily improve these numbers if he decided to jump ship, join Joe Root’s Barmy Army, and take his rightful place as England’s long-term number 3.

Go on, Kane. You know you want to. We’ll even change the residency rules for you like we did with Jofra Archer ;-)

Who would you poach?

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with Freespinbonus.co.uk


  • I picked Kane before reading this so either great minds think alike or fools seldom differ!

  • If I’d be poaching one for India I’d be doing Buttler. I can play him alongside Dhoni in ODIs, may be in place of Dhoni in T20s and as a wicket keeper in tests. Although Pant is exciting but India is in dire need of a matured head who can play anywhere between 4 to 6 and hit the ball hard and finish games.
    I was tempted to poach a left arm seamer in Boult but India’s seam attack has lately been exciting in itself, so I feel India’s only cricketing problems lie in finishing limited over games and batting well in tests in England. Buttler seems best bet to help in both.

  • Don’t really see the point of discussing this, but in a fantasy world I’d pick Steve Smith by a mile.

  • Who England would poach? Ask the various directors of cricket. They have already poached a whole international bowling lineup between them in the last 3 years. So surely there must be some talent there …

    And as I said on another thread, a Kolpak XI would give SA a good run for their money in ODIs at least. Probably T20s as well. As for Tests, the SA batting lineup is so woeful that even a Glamorgan batting lineup with a good pace battery will give them a run for their money.

    SA? A decent middle order batsman would be nice (Amla is way past his best, #4 and Faf hardly contribute much, and then Gibson has the brilliant idea of playing 5 bowlers, because the batting is so strong). . . So probably Stokes, solely because Gibson will then have the luminous idea of batting Stokes at 6, and only picking 3 other quicks + 1 spinner then.

    West Indies? Probably Warner. They really need an opening bat. Or anyone in the middle order. West Indies specialist batsmen barely last 50 balls / innings. For most other major teams that is 60+ balls.

    Zimbabwe? Probably an English chairman. I do think the players would really appreciate being PAID for their services. Never mind what that will do for improving standards in the domestic game.

    Sri Lanka could do with a tail that bats. So probably Cummins. Also takes care of a bit of a pacers issue. Same story for Bangladesh.

    Pakistan need a middle order bat. And if Virat Kohli, and Steven Smith are not available, then at least a Pujara or a Williamson.

    Australia? In dire need of a better wicketkeeper than Paine. Quinton de Kock to the rescue?

    India could do with a #5. Rahane has been poor and Nohit Sharma really doesn’t cut it. Not sure if there are any convincing #5s out there at the moment.

    New Zealand? Only issue might be the wicketkeeper / batsman (last time Watling hit a ton against non-Zim opposition was against England, back in 2015). Quinton de Kock would probably improve them – and New Zealand have a history of poaching SA rejects (Grant Elliott ring a bell?).

    Ireland? Not sure where to start.

    Afghanistan? Probably need some improvement in the batting department. Bowling looks rather promising, so that is probably one out of Smith, Williamson, or Kohli.

  • For NZ, I’m happy enough with our batting. And our seam bowling is as good as anyone’s. I’d be looking at a top spinner, preferably with some batting chops – Tim Southee at #9 is ok. Southee at 8 can really curtail an innings. So Ashwin for me.

  • Quite a few batsmen, Markram is just the sort of player England usually try and poach from South Africa and heads should roll for missing out on him…

    Rabada would be my pick quality all format Cricketer, With the end of Broad and Anderson coming into sharper focus he’d be great. If I were picking a batsmen I’d have Kohli and make Root bat three, the thing with Smith is I can’t see him getting in an England white ball side, far too slow

  • Steve Smith, no argument – world class in all formats. Centuries and freakish catches all over the world in all formats, adaptable as they come.

  • “What a shame that 50 over cricket – serious first team 50 over cricket – is being shamefully sacrificed to make room for the tawdry Hundred from next year…. It’s a disgrace”.

    Not if you’re Steve James who says “what’s not to like” about what the ECB are doing with 50 over cricket, a view heartily endorsed on Twitter by Mike Selvey. Are they fools or knaves? Maybe this is why some of us prefer blogs!

    “the potential right-arm / left-arm combination of Moeen and Jack Leach? Fortunately our existing clutch of all-rounders enables us to play both”

    Reckon you’ll have fingers left over to count the number of times those two play together for England outside Asia. They’ll need to pack the batting plus never forget seam bowling is our “traditional strength”.

    “If England could have one cricketer, just one, from any other country then who would it be?”

    I’m not sure I want to play this game as the ECB don’t need any more encouragement on this front! However who would I de-poach i.e. get shot of if I could? I’d have said Farby but Warwickshire did that job for us (how’s that working out for you?). Would someone take Colin Graves off our hands? Please!

    • Am I gobsmacked that Selvey and James are supporting the diminishment of the RLODC. How can any journalist argue that (a) winning world cups is important, and simultaneously (b) argue that we should have no proper domestic 50 over cricket. It just doesn’t make any sense.

      • Yes and wait until the next WC comes around in 2024. They will bleat on that we don’t play enough domestic 50 over cricket no doubt, especially when we have lost this one.

      • I still say let’s go back to the 40 over format. To me it was still the best 1-dayer. You don’t get that middle part of each innings where neither side seems takes the initiative and the game starts to drift. More artificial ‘aids’ like power plays were not necessary in 40 over cricket.

  • If you’re looking to plug a gap and make the test team better balanced we don’t need middle order batsmen, seam bowlers or wicket keepers, they’re coming out of our ears. What we clearly need is a proper opening bat who has the necessary aptitude for test cricket as a successor to Cook. Presently I only see 1 out there with a pedigree and that is Dean Elgar. Apart from being brought up on faster bouncier wickets he also has plenty of experience playing county cricket in this country, so would fit in to home series with ease. I know he’s getting on but players like Gooch managed onto their 40’s, so why not. Desperate needs call for desperate measures and Elgar is the least desperate I can think of.

  • For England, I’ll take Steve Smith, because he can bat No.3. I’ll also nick Rabada from South Africa just for fun to add a smattering of pace to the side, knowing that Jimmy Anderson and Broad are on their last legs.

  • All of these have merit and most of them are very sensible and occasionally obvious suggestions. I would go left field here. If I could choose one person for England it would be Jason Holder. I think he is a better cricketer than a lot of people give him credit for – his figures stand comparison with other more favoured all-rounders. But I would be picking him for the man I believe he is. He has done a fantastic job in the maelstrom that calls itself West Indies cricket. Imagine what he could do with all the resources available to England.

    I would make him captain and I do not really mind which of our 159 all-rounders we get rid of and I think he might just bring a breath of realism to some of our talented but possibly rather coddled cricketers. His appointment would enable Joe Root to bat without the constraints of captaincy and show why he was one of the top three batsmen in the world but is not now.

  • Jesus

    England need so many


    Literally take your pick

    • I think you could do a similar hatchet job on most England sides post war, as we haven’t exactly produced a bevy of class spin or pace bowlers. Laker and Lock were the last class spin twins unless you think Edmunds amd Emburey cut the mustard and as far as genuine pace goes Larwood and Voce, unless of course you go with the likes of Willis and Dilley.
      As for top 3 material since Boycott, Edrich and Barrington we’ve always chopped and changed at the drop of the hat. Atherton, Gooch and Cook are the only long term servants I can think of off hand, though I maybe doing a disservice to a few, but not many.
      On a personal note, just for the furore it would cause amongst the present action heroes at the ECB, I’d love to see a Tavare style no 3, who occupies the crease without hitting the ball off the square hour after hour.

      • You say that but the following were far more competent that the current lot and far less well rewarded

        Collingwood (not for talent but the way he adapted makes him better than the mor talented but flawed modern middle order)

        • I did say I thought I might be doing a disservice to a few, and Strauss and Trott are clearly a couple I missed, for that I apologise, but we are talking about a top 3 here, so KP, Bell and Collingwood don’t count and I would rate Bairstow above Prior. Tresco was certainly a success but I never felt any confidence in his sticking power whilst watching him, rather in the same mould as Alec Stewart. Both had a great eye but foot movement was minimal as they consistently chased after wide balls, playing away from the body. Flintoff was an all rounder who only late on in his career became a world class bowler and I would rate Stokes a better bat. Harmison I rate no higher than a Devon Malcolm. He had a few decent performances, but was hardly a Willis down the years. Swann was certainly a class act but had no one of any consequence to bowl with as a pair, so doesn’t qualify in the spin twin stakes.

  • For Australia, Pujara, Williamson or Kholi. On the basis Kholi is the only one of the 3 of them I dislike, probably Kholi.

  • If Finn or TRJ could get back to their best, it would be like poaching a new player. Sadly, neither’s returns are that encouraging so far – although in the case of the latter and a long-term back injury that’s understandable.

    Meanwhile, plastic pitches are coming and this season. Plastic pitches for plastic cricket…. it’s the future!

  • The USA have obtained ODI status.

    Watch ICC tournaments suddenly start increasing the number of teams involved again…

    • Invitation-only world Cup coming up from 2023 or 2027 forward? Since this is the ICC, an organisation renowned for being allergic to meritocracy and integrity, I would not dare to bet against it.

      Say adios to the West Indies, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe in the World Cup then. Soon followed by South Africa, and possibly Sri Lanka in the near future as well. Wonder which populous nation with a decent size economy can then snap up all those talents – it will be even too much for the counties to absorb all those players …

      Maybe the best thing for those rejects is if cricketophilia breaks out in Russia or some place like that, and billionaires buy themselves teams or something of the sort..

  • Jason Holder for me. An inspirational captain and a guy who clearly loves the game. But, on reflection, I’d rather that he continues to revitalise Windies cricket.


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