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banner Saturday, 19 January, 2002, 14:55 GMT
Passport to prosperity
Nic Pothas was once seen as a future Test player
Pothas: Making a fresh start in England
South African Nic Pothas will play for Hampshire this summer as a non-overseas player. BBC Sport Online reflects on the growing trend of counties looking for cricket mercenaries.

It was Virgil who apparently coined the phrase "'Beware of Greeks bearing gifts".

Hampshire County Cricket Club, however, are only too happy to accept the Greek passport which has enabled Nic Pothas to join their staff for the 2002 season.

The signing of South African-born Pothas on a two-year contract has again raised the issue of overseas players being recruited under passports of convenience

And it is likely to lead to fresh concern among officials of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Professional Cricketers' Association because of the knock-on effect on home grown talent.

He is a quality player and comes highly recommended by our South African coach Jimmy Cook
Tim Tremlett

One can understand Hampshire, promoted to Division One of the County Championship last summer, seizing the opportunity to sign a player who has played one-day internationals for the country of his birth.

"Last time we came straight down, but this signing will prompt competition for places in the team, and enable us to compete in the Championship," Director of Cricket Tim Tremlett told the Daily Echo newspaper.

Pothas is a talented wicket-keeper/batsman, who averages in the mid-30s in both first-class and one-day cricket.

Once seen as the natural successor to Dave Richardson, South Africa's wicket-keeper after their return to international cricket a decade ago, he was in fact overlooked in favour of Mark Boucher when Richardson retired.

And with a move to England upcoming, he is now playing domestic cricket for Gauteng as an overseas player.

His arrival at the Rose Bowl will help ease the pressure on 37-year-old Adrian Aymes, who has been behind the stumps for Hampshire since 1987.

But where does that leave locally born Iain Brunnschweiler, a young 'keeper with experience in Australian club cricket, who made his first team debut two years ago and has been patiently waiting for a regular place?

David Ligertwood
Ligertwood admits he was not good enough for county cricket

Some counties are backing a plan which would mean teams having to field only eight players who are qualified to play international cricket for England.

And their view is supported by Pothas' agent, David Ligertwood, a former wicket-keeper for Surrey and Durham.

"There are clearly too many English qualified players involved in county cricket. The talent needs to be concentrated," he said.

The ECB has been forced to change its regulations governing the signing of players born overseas because of European Union employment laws.

The rules now state that players must not have played first-class or international cricket in another country for 12 months in order to be eligible to play as a non-foreigner, if they have an EU passport.

Pothas made the last of his three one-day appearances for South Africa against Pakistan in Singapore in August 2000, so he is can be classed as a non-overseas player.

Likewise batsman Craig Spearman - who has a British passport - will play for Gloucestershire next summer because he has not played for his native New Zealand since February 2001.

Gloucestershire signing Craig Spearman
Spearman has played 19 Tests and over 50 ODIs

"I found out the eligibility rules had changed and I have qualified very fortuitously," Spearman said.

Two more South Africans - Sven Koenig (Scandinavian name, but Italian passport) and Andrew Gait will play for Middlesex and Derbyshire respectively this summer, alongside official 'overseas' players Abdur Razzaq and Michael Di Venuto.

And several others like Kevin Pietersen, Greg Smith and Mark Davis, are already familiar faces on the county circuit.

With opportunities, and lucrative salaries, on offer in England, it is no surprise that interest is growing.

Indeed, former Zimbabwe all-rounder Neil Johnson, who has re-signed as Hampshire's overseas player for 2002, turned his back on international cricket because he could pocket more elsewhere.

In Pothas' case, the old joke applies - just how much does a Grecian earn?

See also:

18 Jan 02 |  Hampshire
Hampshire sign Pothas
11 Dec 01 |  Cricket
Rose blooms for England
10 Dec 01 |  Cricket
Have bat, will travel
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