Alfonso Thomas is at the centre of a dispute between the Devon Cricket Board and the Minor Counties Cricket Association.
Alfi, who was released by Somerset at the end of last season, joined Exeter CC as their professional player and coach for 2016 back in March and is also wanted by Devon CC in a professional capacity, but his registration is proving difficult to push through with Devon’s first attempt at registering the player knocked back by the authorities.
It would appear that Alfi’s nationality is the major part of the problem even though he has lived in Taunton with his English wife for 8 years and is going through the naturalisation process to become a UK citizen. Players who do not qualify to play for England are not guaranteed automatic registration but there are discretionary powers in place so the player and county may yet get the result they seek.
Neil Gamble, Devon’s CEO, told the Devon Cricket Board’s website that he understood why the MCCA were sticking to the rules but was optimistic they would still allow the signing to go ahead, saying: “After three weeks of deliberation, an MCCA sub-committee of five refused to give dispensation to Alfonso Thomas to play for Devon while his British citizenship comes through.
“The main reason for saying ‘no’ seems to be the possibility of others trying to achieve this same result, so it was important to prevent the floodgates opening.”
The PCA (Professional Cricketer’s Association) have stepped in to help find a solution for both parties.
Alfonso actually played for a Devon XI in a victory against Somerset 2nd’s last Sunday at Sidmouth, bowling a miserly 5 overs for only 10 runs as the visitors were bowled out for 187 in 49.5 overs. Devon, in response, took only 46.5 overs and 5 wickets to pass the total required.
Meanwhile Exeter Cricket Club are delighted to have their man in place for 2016 and beyond. Their chairman, Julian Smith, said on the club’s official website: “This opportunity was too good to miss. Having met Alfonso it was very clear that, as player-coach, he can offer a huge amount to the club and all its players. At the same time, the club can provide him with a good base to work from and great contacts across Exeter and Devon. What really sealed the deal was Alfonso’s desire to think beyond one season. What he wants to achieve over the next few years has real synergy with the Club’s ambitions.”
Alfonso was equally as positive saying: “I am delighted to be joining Exeter CC as a player and coach. I have already been impressed by the ambition of the club and the facilities it has. I can’t imagine not playing cricket and the chance of playing a bit and coaching a lot really appeals to me. I’m looking forward to playing some good cricket and helping other players develop their game.”
So let’s hope common sense prevails here and Alfonso is able to sign for Devon and thereby continue to play cricket at a county level and help develop young players in the west country. Devon has been a healthy breeding ground for Somerset players in recent years with Craig & Jamie Overton, Lewis Gregory and Adam Dibble all hailing from Devon and playing for Somerset’s 1st XI. Ben Green is another young Devonian hoping to make his mark and came close to making his Somerset in last week’s drawn game with Durham but had to accept 12th man duties instead.