Virtuous or Vultures? Nottinghamshire’s Recruitment Strategy

Cricket fans are a unique bunch. Whilst many support a county team based on family relations or geographical location, our main priority often lies with the national team. Punters take delight when a local lad performs well for England, despite it meaning they may be lucky to see that player wear home colours once or twice a season.

This is a stark contrast to other sports, yet one that makes county cricket so endearing. You may well find yourself checking the scorecard of rival teams to ensure that young talent earmarked for international honours have performed, or even hoping they score heavily or take wickets against your own team.

One of the most recent phenomena amongst county fans, however, is their collective and increasingly hostile reception to Nottinghamshire. In the past three seasons the Midlands giant has cherry picked talent from smaller counties and completely remoulded their top order. Acquisitions such as Ben Duckett from Northants, Joe Clarke from Worcestershire and Ben Slater from Derbyshire were met with scorn from many old-school cricket fans, whilst the signing of the out of form Haseeb Hameed raised a few eyebrows.

Yet, with Peter Moores at the helm, a man renowned for his moulding and care of young cricketers, shouldn’t we be happy that some of the most exciting players in England have found their way into his warm embrace?

The first thing to say is that cherry picking talent by the so-called larger counties is nothing new. My own county Lancashire has enjoyed the success of Keaton Jennings after signing him from Durham, whilst Luke Wood recently made the decision to leave Notts and join the red rose. Surrey have often been seen as being a club that hoovers up cricketers whilst Yorkshire have raided both Worcestershire and Northants in the past few years. In fact, I would suggest that playing at a Test match ground is better for our promising young players, and surely it is preferable to the influx of overseas and Kolpak signings that larger counties can afford? Just look at Hampshire, who in recent years have had bowling line-ups almost exclusively made up of non-English cricketers.

Indeed, it would be hard to argue that overall, the four new top order batsmen Notts acquired have not improved. After a difficult start, Slater has since scored 972 runs at 51 in the past two seasons whilst another player enjoying his time at Trent Bridge is every England fan’s favourite Hameed, who has scored 787 runs at 43 and earned himself a much-anticipated international recall. Clarke and Duckett have been a tad less fortunate in red ball cricket – scoring 1317 runs at 33 and 1430 runs at 34 respectively. However, their exploits in the shortest format have seen Nottinghamshire win their second blast title in 4 years. Duckett scored 340 runs at a strike rate of 137 last season and saw them over the line in the final, whilst the explosive Clarke hit them at a ridiculous strike rate of 175 throughout that same campaign.

Their new talent has also seen them win their first Championship game since 2018, when they narrowly avoided relegation. Currently sitting third in their group, they could well find themselves moving into the top table after managing three wins so far this season. It must also be said that they have some exciting local lads in their line-up as well. The intriguing Lyndon James has already scored a handful of gritty half centuries and bagged a handy number of wickets this season, and whilst Steven Mullaney may have started his career at Lancashire, after 11 seasons at Notts its hard not to describe him as a club legend.

Furthermore, the influx of talent to Trent Bridge has freed up some fine batsmen to the smaller counties. Jake Libby, since his move to Worcestershire, has scored 1274 runs at an average of 60 and is easily the most inform opening batsmen in the country today – this may well not have happened had he continued to ply his trade at Notts.

You can easily disagree with the way Notts have gone about building their team of young English talent, but to single them out is often unwarranted and frankly absurd. Players have always sought larger contracts and a better chance at international cricket, and we know this often means a move to a larger county.

To have a group of batsmen coached by one of the finest in Moores, playing at a Test venue in front of bigger crowds and doing so whilst often actually improving, can only be a good thing for English cricket. I for one hope Nottinghamshire continue to improve as an outfit and that their young English talent, wherever they may be from, continue to go from strength to strength.

James Ogden


  • “Just look at Hampshire, who in recent years have had bowling line-ups almost exclusively made up of non-English cricketers.”

    Well, Hampshire have had two bowlers play for England in the last four years and there will be a fair few counties that can’t claim that. Admittedly they weren’t particularly successful but both still have quite a lot of play left in them and may well feature again (although more probably in white-ball stuff – but hey, that’s our priority). Neither was improved by England and both were arguably damaged. Both incidentally are not having good seasons with the red ball but then that’s true of spin bowling generally.

    Hampshire did provide England with a bowler who was instrumental in the only away Ashes win in the last 35 or so years. He was poorly handled, ruined and dumped after ciminally few Tests.

    Most counties have taken some Kolpaks in recent years. Hampshire happened to recruit all theirs as bowlers whereas others have more mixed batsmen and bowlers.

  • I have ambivalent feelings about Notts. Of all the Test grounds, it is the most pleasant at which to watch County Cricket, with a homely feel and good, cheap, no nonsense food in the pavilion. For friendly stewarding the Club is class leading, and the ground developments give an attractive view from all heights and angles.

    But yes, it is an annoyance to find a County in a populous, cricket-playing area which has Hameed (Lancs), Slater (Derbys), Clarke (Worcs), Duckett (Northants), Mullaney (Lancs) at the top of the batting order. And they all seem to underachieve at Trent Bridge…until this year, perhaps. It would be easier to take if there were a couple of Notts batsmen playing for England. But there aren’t.

    It seems that there are player-producing counties, and player-importing ones. Notts and Hampshire come into the second category as once, not long ago, did Surrey and Lancashire. They have seen the error of their ways, to the benefit of themselves and of England. Not only is the England team full of the products of Lancashire’s and Yorkshire’s youth programmes, but there are many others plying their trade expertly round the circuit.

    Finally, I refute the thought that Yorkshire ‘raided’ Worcs for Tom Kohler-Cadmore. We were only repossessing one of our own, poached from us by them when he were nobbut a lad. Cricket scholarships are nothing new, of course. Ian Botham, of Millfield School, playing for Somerset, was one result. Perhaps we should be grateful if Notts failed to spot Joe Root at Worksop. The most bizarre seems to have been the route taken by Sam Hain to Warwickshire, but everyone benefitted, the lad himself and, perhaps, England in the near future.

    • Hi Dave. Yes Tom KC had roots in Yorkshire. But he went to school in Worcs. I could understand the move though. It didn’t hurt as much as the Clarke one. Interestingly, Moeen has always stayed loyal to Worcs despite having strong links to Birmingham. The temptation to join Warwickshire, who have reportedly tried to lure him away in the past, must have been strong.

      • Moeen’s career began at Warwickshire. He wasn’t especially impressed by the way he was treated there and left of his own accord in 2006. I’d be very surprised if he went back.

      • Yes, he did ‘go to school’ in Worcs, because of that scholarship, and (as I understand it) part of the deal was that he became a Worcs player.

        Worcestershire haven’t done badly out of Yorkshire, from Duncan Fearnley, Steve Rhodes, Richard Illingworth, David Leatherdale, Gareth Batty, to TKC. Yorkshire is a player-exporting County. And, having watched Worcester 2s, I believe they easily produce their own, from a much smaller population pool. Lots of good young quickies! One of the best places to visit, too, lovely ground, nice people.

  • It seems odd to have such strong opinions being voiced in cricketing circles about an issue that’s always been taken for granted in the football world, where players move about so regularly, with clubs regularly poach into each other’s talent.

  • I think the big question in this debate is whether the ability to poach young players from other clubs means there’s less incentive to develop home-grown players yourself. The big counties have the bigger budgets and therefore could / should have excellent youth programmes themselves.

    Perhaps Notts’ reliance on ‘imports’ shows that their own development programmes are coming up short. Basically, if the counties are there to produce talent for England, then Notts have been failing in this regard. It doesn’t make them look particularly good imho.

    • Maybe, but developing talent is not that straightforward in a sense. Just as a beginning chess player will not greatly benefit from tutoring from a Grandmaster, but a strong player will, the same may apply to cricket.

      It could be that the smaller counties may be more successful at nurturing talent up to the ‘decent county professional player’, but that it takes a setup that is more suitable to make that last step to unlock the last bits of potential. To unlock that potential may be quite a bit more expensive, and if England do come calling, you get zero return on your investment as a county. Is that worth it?

      Not that it excuses Notts or any of the other counties to develop talent, mind you.

      • The evidence from a wide variety of sports is that It’s about about when that talent will come to fruition. Just because a promising youngster hasn’t come on doesn’t mean he or she isn’t a late developer. In footie there’s a legion of talented teens who play for their international sides up to under 21’s and are never heard of in the big time again, ending up in the lower divisions. In cricket there’s not so many of them and there’s no lower divi

  • When did Yorkshire “raid” Worcestershire? They signed back Tom Köhler-Cadmore, who learned his cricket in Yorkshire and played at Driffield and in Yorkshire’s junior teams until he was lured away with a scholarship to Malvern College, but the player himself was clearly keen to “return to his roots”. To call that a raid seems needlessly pejorative.

  • Surprised you didn’t see fit to mention Leicestershire when writing this. James Taylor, Stuart Broad, Harry Gurney, Zak Chappell all developed in a better pathway than exists at Notts

    • Leics seem to have suffered more than most over the years. We could even go back to DI Gower … although to be fair he wasn’t exactly young when he left for Hants ;-)

    • I did think about mentioning Leicester – as you noted they produce players of high quality and are often raided by bigger counties. They just didn’t really fit into the narrative of the piece which focuses on the scorn Notts have faced after remodelling their top order in the past few years.

      I also sadly think Leicestershire’s ability to produce top players is diminishing ever more, although azad at the top of the order seems to be a fine opener. Much of their talent of recent years seems to have stemmed from players deemed surplus by other counties.


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