This week Brian Halford examines the great overseas players. We’ve shortlisted five greats to pick from and remember to cast your vote at the bottom of this page.
Record for Warwickshire (2009-present).
- First-class: 124 matches; 3,412 runs (24.02), 473 wickets (26.11).
- List A: 82 matches; 273 runs (9.50), 128 wickets (23.97)
- T20: 130 matches; 214 runs (7.37), 135 wickets (23.78)
The Bears took a punt on Patel when they signed him in the spring of 2009 – it transpired to be perhaps the best ever punt in the history of punts.
The New Zealander’s first spell at Edgbaston, soon truncated by injury, was unspectacular but coach Ashley Giles had seen enough in the off-spinner as both cricketer and a man to bring him back.
Good decision. The sustained excellence of Patel’s all-round contribution to the Bears in all formats over the last decade is hard to over-state.
The standout spin-bowler in county cricket year after year, he became the backbone of the bowling attack in all formats while delivering many useful and match-affecting lower-order contributions with the bat.
Those skills, delivered with a legendary intensity, have amounted to a colossal on-field contribution while Jeets is no less an influence off the field. His deep love of cricket and respect for cricket history meant that he bought straight into Warwickshire CCCs rich heritage. No-one ever took to the field more proud to be a Bear then Jeetan Patel.
Record for Warwickshire (1987-2000)
- First-class: 141 matches; 1,363 runs (12.98), 536 wickets (20.82).
- List A: 149 matches; 288 runs (10.66), 245 wickets (19.21)
No-one ever took to the field more proud to be a Bear then Jeetan Patel, but a few were equally proud – and Donald is among them. Brought over to Birmingham from South Africa as a callow 21-year-old, A.D first saw off competition from West Indian Tony Merrick as the Bears pace spearhead and then set about blossoming into the best fast-bowler in the world.
His searing pace was a potent enough weapon. That it was delivered by a man with a heart big enough to demand the most from himself at all times – the fastest, the best and the longest spells possible – made him a formidable opponent and a brilliant Bear.
Sportsmen often talk about former team-mates with great respect and admiration, but rarely awe. However, there is a touch of awe to the recollections of the Bears’ squad of 1995 when they recall A.D’s work that hot summer – 89 county championship wickets at 16.07 – to power his team to the title. A true talisman, a great fast-bowler and a man whose pride and passion for Warwickshire shines through to this day.
Record for Warwickshire (1994-1998)
- First-class: 30 matches; 3,099 runs (63.24)
- List A: 44 matches; 1,308 runs (31.90)
How can a man who played just 30 first-class matches for Warwickshire be the club’s greatest overseas player?
Well, of course, in terms of longevity and loyalty, Lara does not compare with Jeets and A.D. However his inspirational impact in those few months in 1994 shaped the club’s history.
Warwickshire’s quick thinking to sign him up just before the season was royally rewarded – they took delivery of a genius at the peak of his powers. Many ingredients and fine players combined to secure the Bears’ 1994 treble but Lara’s brilliance was the catalyst. His attitude towards practice (to be fair, at that time, he didn’t need any!) annoyed some team-mates and management and his return to Edgbaston in 1998 was ill-advised and unhappy, but if a player’s contribution to a club is measured by how often his exploits are recalled and how much he influenced the team, then Lara has to be up there amongst the great overseas Bears.
Record for Warwickshire (1968-1977)
- First-class: 173 matches; 11,615 runs (51.62), 4 wickets (52.75).
- List A: 142 matches; 4,443 runs (40.39), 1 wicket (2.00)
“He was as good as Lara” is a bold claim which always raises a few eyebrows among anyone who watched Lara bat – but there are few better judges of a batsman than former Warwickshire and England captain MJK Smith – and MJK is adamant that Kanhai was as good as Lara.
The West Indian batsman played in an era of uncovered pitches, when batting conditions were often treacherous. Cheap runs were few and batting skills paramount. Kanhai possessed all those skills, alongside a mighty self-confidence and a withering power which could simply blow bowling attacks away.
He made his Test debut for West Indies at Edgbaston, in 1957, and went on to grace the ground for a decade, his 1,437 runs (at 59.87) with seven centuries helping the Bears to the county championship title in 1972. Kanhai’s century against Kent, with Derek Underwood bowling on a wet wicket, at Gravesend in 1970 is possibly the finest innings ever played for Warwickshire.
Record for Warwickshire (1971-1990)
- First-class: 285 matches; 18,158 runs (43.75), 49 wickets (48.00)
- List A: 289 matches; 8,823 runs (36.01), 28 wickets (48.00)
Diminutive in size, mighty in stature, Kalli stood just five feet four inches in height but towered as a batsman in 66 Test matches for West Indies and 20 seasons for the Bears.
A glorious stroke-player, with ineffable timing, Kalli played some of his finest knocks against the world’s best bowlers. Having made his Bears debut in 1971, he scored 994 runs in the County Championship title season the following year and was still scoring runs into the 1990s.
Much of his career coincided with a far from golden era for Warwickshire but the batting of KallI, along with that of Dennis Amiss, offered the Bears supporters some joy during a thin time for the team. Kalli’s last appearance for the county, and in senior cricket, arrived in the modest surrounding of St Albans when he scored 41 in Warwickshire’s Nat West Bank Trophy win over Hertfordshire in 1990. A far cry from the glory of Lord’s and World Cup final wins with West Indies in 1975 and 1979 – but Kalli’s batting graced every ground and adorned every occasion.
CAST YOUR VOTE
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest Overseas Player, simply complete the below form. Everyone who submits their vote will be entered into a prize draw to win a signed Warwickshire shirt.
Voting closes at 5pm on Tuesday 31 March, with the results revealed on Wednesday 1 April.