Craig Kieswetter will have to wait for England chance

By Ben Bloom

Craig Kieswetter

England have resisted calling up Craig Kieswetter for today’s Twenty20 international against Pakistan despite the South African-born wicketkeeper’s sparkling form for the England Lions.

Kieswetter, who became eligible to play for his adopted country yesterday after completing a four-year residency period, has scored 279 runs for the Lions in just five Twenty20 innings.

However, Paul Collingwood, England’s captain in the shortest form of the game, has said the players already selected in the squad deserve a chance to prove themselves.

“We’ve got a squad here – we’ve pretty much got the side set in our minds,” he said.

“You’ve got to back the guys and give them enough time to understand each other’s games for them to build and perform well.”

Kieswetter celebrated gaining his England eligibility by smashing 81 off 66 balls as England’s second-string overcame their senior counterparts in a Twenty20 match in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

His latest innings followed scores of 31, 77 not out, 40 not out and 50 in the Lions’ preceding tour games, taking his average to 93 on their United Arab Emirates tour.

But despite England’s two up-coming Twenty20 matches against Pakistan providing the final practice in such a format before the World Twenty20 tournament in April and May, Collingwood has opted to stick with the opening combination of Jonathan Trott and Joe Denly.

“We’ve chopped and changed around a lot at the top of the order in the past but we believe we’ve got two guys who can score runs quickly.

“All the guys yesterday had a certain pressure to perform well and he (Kieswetter) certainly did that, but we believe we’ve got the skills and the players here.”

England’s selection consistency has previously proved a problem with 47 players being used in 23 Twenty20 internationals including nine different wicketkeepers and 14 opening partnerships.

If Kieswetter is to get into the England set-up he would have to displace current wicketkeeper Matt Prior, although Kieswetter also has the potential to play solely as a batsman.

Prior’s score of 33 was one of the highlights in a disappointing England performance yesterday though and the Sussex wicketkeeper has received plaudits for his improved glovework over the past few series.

Furthermore, only last month national selector Geoff Miller warned about the number of South Africans playing in the England team.

Kieswetter, born in Johannesburg, played for his native country in the uner-19 World Cup in 2006 before making his debut for Somerset the following year.

With Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott having made the move across (and the likes of Andrew Strauss and Prior having been born in South Africa) there is clearly a trend appearing that the selectors are wary of.

“We have got to get to the stage where we are very careful on that, and we will be,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say he’s [Kieswetter] the last but we will monitor it. But Craig has passed all the criteria required to be an English cricketer. He has proved his worth, that’s why he’s there.

Another possible England candidate Michael Lumb, who hit 58 not out as Kieswetter’s opening partner for the Lions yesterday, also represented his native country South Africa at under-19 level before moving to England.

However, the issue is not one that Collingwood is worried about.

“There has certainly been an influx of them in the past few years,” he said.

“A lot of South African-born players have made their decision about what is going on there and about where the best opportunity of going ahead is.

“A lot of them have come to England and a lot of them are very, very good players. As long as they are qualified and go down the right channels we’ve got no problem with that.

“Kieswetter became English, England-qualified, yesterday and that is exactly the same as has happened for the last couple of decades. We can’t say what’s good for one player isn’t good for another.”

Although South African cricket no longer has an official quota system, sporting bodies are encouraged to positively discriminate towards players of colour.

Such a system was quoted by Pietersen when explaining his motives for moving to England and the number of players making a similar move shows he is not alone in his views that it hinders players’ progress.

Once again it seems that South Africa’s loss may well prove to be England’s gain though, and it is surely only a matter of time before Kieswetter receives his national honours.

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