Regular readers of these pages know I am a big fan of Sam Northeast. Now Kent have given the player permission to speak to other counties I believe Somerset should attempt to sign the 28-year-old, even though there will surely be a scramble for his services and he will be in high demand.
Northeast has decided to step down as club captain of the side he has served all his career so he can maximise his England ambitions, and believes he needs to be playing in the top tier of the County Championship to do that. He is Kent through-and-through having been born in Ashford in 1989. He was made club captain in 2015 replacing Rob Key.
Signing Northeast would transform Somerset, particularly as a one day outfit. Ironically his best performances in list A and T20 cricket were achieved at Taunton. In 2014, he struck 132 in the Royal London One Day Cup against us in a high scoring game before his team ultimately dropped out in the semi-finals. And who could forget the 114 he smacked against in the T20 in May 2015, a game most famous for Chris Gayle’s 151 not out?
He would be the explosive player that Somerset has missed since Craig Kieswetter’s premature retirement in 2015.
Somerset would be good for him. Look at how moving to the south west transformed Nick Compton’s career. He was struggling in second division Middlesex’s 2nd XI when Brian Rose signed him in 2010 and, after a slow enough start, starting scoring 1,000 per season for fun and gained the international recognition he craved.
But Somerset must want the player of course. Sarge said in a press conference in December that Somerset were not looking to make a domestic signing, yet! The sudden availability of Northeast may change that?
And of course Somerset will simply not break the bank for one player. Northeast will no doubt be offered some silly money from other clubs – especially from the likes of moneybags Surrey – and Somerset will not be drawn into an auction that upsets the bank balance, and a few other players on the books. The club is being well run. But I do think an investment in a domestic player like Northeast would be better placed than on a second, expensive overseas recruit.
So wherever Northeast ends up his timing is perfect on the back of England’s poor showing down under this winter. I hope he takes his chance.
But this prompts another burning question; should there be football style transfer fees in cricket? The only thing that bugs me more than seeing Jos Buttler wearing a Lancashire kit is the fact that we handed a World Class player to them for free. In football, Buttler would have commanded a multi-million pound transfer fee. The same could be said when we allowed an unhappy Compo the chance to return to Middlesex mid-contract with, again, no obvious financial benefit to Somerset.
Kent are cash-strapped (or they have been) and were – I am told – close to folding at one stage. They were forced to develop local talent to even put a side out. In 2015, when Somerset were parading Gayle as our overseas player, Kent couldn’t afford the services of their own international recruit.
They have gallantly decided to allow the player the chance to talk to other clubs but at a cost to themselves as they will not easily replace a player of this class. Should they be compensated? Hell yes.
I don’t want to see cricket head the same direction as football, with players demanding moves every time they are rested, and certainly don’t want to see agents gaining any great strength, but clubs and academies cost money to run and counties should be rewarded for developing talent. Even if a player thrives elsewhere.