Most recently its started to come to people's attention. With more and more players who are unable to play for their country of birth. Have opted to search through family documents, family trees and many other options. In search for a link to their history, so they can find another path to International cricket.
Over the last few years, people have even criticized these individuals for pursuing such paths. My view over this article will be to ask why, also what is needed to help the associates. While also protecting them and their future youth.
Everyone involved in cricket, will know about Eoin Morgan and that he's now playing for England. While previously having represented Ireland. Likewise with Dirk Nannes who played for Holland, then he was selected for the Australian cricket side. These are just two examples of players who have been lucky or unlucky enough to be selected by a Test playing country.
Then there is the likes of Tim Murtagh, who most recently was granted Irish citizenship. Or Trent Johnston, a longer time ago who was also asked to play for Ireland.
I've heard people discuss these two sets of groups in the same way. As if both are equally as bad as each other. I'd like to think they're completely different situations.
Trent Johnston met an Irish woman. When they moved here, roughly 17/18 years ago he was approached to play for Ireland. He's always shown to be a strong leader for Ireland. While also being very committed to the cause of Ireland. Also showing to be a highly respected part of the Irish set up.
Also by his own remarks, he knew he wasn't good enough to wear the gold of Australia. So he got the chance to play International cricket, which I can only imagine was very appealing to him, a chance which he grasped with both hands. A decision that would work well for all parties involved.
Then Tim Murtagh likewise, had never played International cricket for England. Then was made aware of his Irish links, he then decided to pursue these links and apply to Ireland for citizenship. In the hope of playing eventually for the Irish cricket team. A move which was recently finalised, when he received his Irish citizenship and his Irish passport.
The problem with the likes of Morgan and Nannes is simple. Morgan was the special case, that he was talented enough to maintain his place in the English side.
However there is far too many players opting for test playing sides. Getting a chance to play for them, then being sidelined. While had they remained with the associate sides they would be of much more valued. Although its hard not to feel for the more talented players in these situations. They get a call from the test side and its hard to turn down.
Although that is a different situation. A decision the ICC needs to make, regarding the power the full members have over the associates.
The idea an Associate player can be played in one game for a Test side. Then he's no longer available to an associate side for four years. While one might expect the same rule would apply to all sides. However it's not, a test side can pick an associate player at any time. They don't need to wait the four years between their last appearance.
For example Ed Joyce of Ireland, was selected for England. However wasn't needed after the 2007 World Cup, so he went nearly four years in International isolation. So Ireland applied to the ICC to allow him to skip the last few months of the four needed. So he could be allowed to play for the associate side during the World Cup. A move which was surprisingly accepted by the ICC, after Clive Lloyd accepted the case put forward by Cricket Ireland.
Still the idea he had to wait so long between games isn't a move I disagree with. I'd go along with it, if both sides had to play by the same rules. However as we all know, Test sides don't need to wait four years before selection. So until the rule is applied to all parties, how can people be surprised that associates don't agree to it.
It's a system currently set up to favour the Test sides, with far too little out there to help the associates survive.
This is something that has to be addressed quickly. If cricket is to develop among the associates then more protection needs to be given to the associates. So the associates can be safe to invest in their youth systems. While nurturing and developing the next star of the future, without fear of losing these players to the big teams. As often it looks like Ireland is a feeder team to the English side, with many of its star players rumoured to be on the verge of selection by England.
Too often this fear is a reality. Ireland currently have two quality younger players in their side. George Dockrell and Paul Stirling. The rumours are all over the cricket world about their future. Will they be snapped up by their neighbours England. Or can they continue to help Ireland develop as a cricketing team. These are decisions these two will likely face sooner rather than later.
So players born in Test playing countries, who pursue options that would allow them be selected by an associate. Is it such a bad thing, why can't players get a chance at International cricket. Just because they've been overlooked by their countries of birth.
I think it's a move which should be supported by all fans of cricket. Although we do need to make sure these players who are opting for this, are 100% committed to their new country. We can't have them deciding to play the big games. Like the World Cup games and skipping the qualifiers.
Then there is another argument to this situation. A very valid point, by playing these more talented players in the associate sides. What message is that sending to the youth of the associate team. They might see the inclusion of such players as limiting their opportunities. That the associate side feels they need to acquire more talented non-national players. That there isn't enough quality in the squad to fill the roles that are needed.
A situation like this occurred recently for an associate side. When Tim Murtagh became available for the Irish cricket team.
A move which was handled excellently by Cricket Ireland recently. When Tim Murtagh was given his passport, he wasn't to be fast tracked into the side. In fact he's named only as one of the replacements for the upcoming T20 World Cup qualifier squad. This sends out a message that he needs to work hard to get in. That he won't be allowed to get in based on his name and experience without hard work.
Overall if a player is willing to be committed and train hard. Then why can't he play for an associate side. If he's not got the exact skills needed by the Test playing country. Then why should one not be given a chance somewhere else.
It's not like these players are mercenaries. Often these players would get paid little or no money, to play for these associates. They would play out of passion for the game, a passion to better themselves. A chance to show their talent on the world stage. An opportunity all players should have.