With Simon Harmer being named as one of Wisden's cricketers of the year in 2020, we ask the question whether he should be allowed to play for England?
Here are some facts to kick things off:
1) Simon Harmer has confirmed that he would like to play for England in the future.
2) Harmer would instantly become the #1 spinner for England due to his talent.
3) He was born and raised in South Africa and has no English eligibility through his parents.
4) He has represented South Africa at test level on the international stage.
Harmer has made no secret of his desire to represent England.
‘I’d love to play for England,’ says Harmer, who played five Tests for South Africa four years ago. ‘I think I’ve shown I have the potential, ability and work ethic to play international cricket again.
‘I’ve certainly proved it to myself because you do wonder if you are good enough. I feel I am now, but how can I proclaim to be the best off-spinner in the world when I’m not competing on the international stage? Perhaps one day in the future that could change.’
Since joining Essex before the 2017 season, Harmer has become one of the most dependable and dangerous spinners in county cricket, finishing the season with 72 wickets at 19.19, as well as a championship winners medal. In 2018 he managed 57 wickets at 24.45 and followed that up with another championship-winning season in 2019 with his best figures of 78 wickets at 18.11.
His talent is unquestionable. He's an aggressive off-spinner with good speed variations, good flight, good turn and his 24 average with the bat in first-class cricket shows he can handle the willow. He would instantly make England a better team and would certainly come in handy in India this winter. He does bowl on a very spin-friendly pitch at Chelmsford, but that doesn't take away from his talent level.
However, should he be allowed to represent England?
I would love to have a player of his talent within the England set-up. However, in my opinion, he should absolutely not be allowed to represent England.
This is not another Jofra Archer situation. It's not even comparable, and there are two main reasons for that. Archer never made a senior appearance for the West Indies and he has eligibility through his father being British.
It's not the same as Kevin Pietersen (English mother), Andrew Strauss (raised in the UK from the age of 6), Matt Prior (English father, grew up in the UK), Jason Roy (raised in the UK) or Ben Stokes (English heritage and moved here at aged 12).
Harmer's connection to the UK is that he is playing in the UK. Having already represented South Africa in 5 tests, he should not and can not be allowed to represent England at an international level, it will make a mockery of the game and turn international cricket into glamorised club cricket, with players free to move and change nationalities at the drop of the hat.
There is a precedent for cricketers playing for two different countries.
Kepler Wessels is the name that will pop up the most. He represented Australia during Apartheid and then went on to play for his native South Africa once the ban on South Africa was lifted in 1991.
Look far enough back and you will find precedence in this country. Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi was selected for England during the 1932-33 Bodyline Ashes series, scoring a century in his first game. Although he often butted heads with Douglas Jardine, he certainly wasn't the only one. He would later captain India for their tour of England just after the war in 1946.
Albert Trott in the late 19th century appeared for both Australia and England. Same with Sammy Woods who again played for both Australia and England during the same time period, Billy Midwinter, exactly the same thing. However they all had connections, rather than just switching.
I would love to see Simon Harmer play international cricket again. I just don't think it should be for England.