Richard Gibson: Finishing school, football and literary tastes

County cricket used to have a reputation as a finishing school for Australian players with international ambitions. But South Africa appear to be the country now benefitting most with Ryan McLaren, Francois du Plessis and Imran Tahir all making their Proteas debuts in the 18 months following sustained success over here. And the South Africans have also reclaimed a couple of seasoned pros this winter with the return to their national squads of former Kolpak cricketers Jacques Rudolph and Johan van der Wath. Rudolph, who quit Yorkshire with a year left on his deal for family reasons last September, is on the periphery of the Test team once more and will captain South Africa A against their Bangladeshi counterparts next month.

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There will be a heavy football connection in the offices at the Kia Oval from April 1 onwards, when Richard Gould takes up his position as chief executive of Surrey. Gould – son of former Coventry, Wimbledon and Wales manager Bobby Gould – will have Carole Turner, formerly PA to Gould’s predecessor Paul Sheldon, and mother of  highly-rated Sunderland defender Michael Turner, as part of his new team. Meanwhile, at Gould’s ex-county Somerset, chairman Andy Nash is to stand for election to the ECB board. Nash previously spent four years as deputy-chairman to Giles Clarke at Taunton, and will put his name forward ahead of the March 29 closing date.

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Glamorgan have opted to halt their marketing campaign for the one-day international against India at the end of the 2011 summer after ticket sales dwarved those for England’s opening fixture of 2011, the npower Test against Sri Lanka. Uptake for that match has been painfully slow to date, and follows the disastrous Twenty20 double-header against Pakistan last year, which was not helped by the lingering stench of spot-fixing. However, Cardiff chiefs retain ambitious plans for the future, and are strong contenders to host an Ashes 2015 Test as part of a bid to host more international cricket than any other British city outside London in the next five years.

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An interesting contrast in literary tastes exists in the Sussex dressing room, given the evidence provided by the ICC’s Room To Read campaign, which promotes global literacy. While Ireland’s Ed Joyce offered George Orwell’s definitive dystopian novel 1984 as his favourite book, Luke Wright chose children’s horror series Goosebumps, written by American author RL Stine.

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The influence of spin on this World Cup has highlighted England’s historical Achilles heel in limited-overs cricket. England are one of only two Test-playing nations – South Africa, whose life cycle is much shorter due to their absence in the apartheid years, the other – not to have produced a spinner who has taken more than 100 wickets in one-day internationals. Graeme Swann is on the verge of becoming the most prolific English twirler, in fact, now just four behind John Emburey’s haul of 76, following the group stages. It is a damning statistic and suggests we should be doing more to encourage emerging spinners, like maintaining decent-sized boundaries in domestic matches. There is nothing more galling than seeing a young spinner being mishit for six because the batsman only has to clear 65 yards. So if you’re walking around a county ground this summer, do us all a favour and tug the rope back.

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