It is fair to say that Lancashire members and supporters have not been overwhelmed by the signing of Farveez Maharoof as their overseas player for 2011.
“He’s not exactly Wasim or Murali,” one opined on Twitter, referring to two big-name imports of the recent past (Wasim Akram and Muttiah Muralitharan). Instead, the experienced Sri Lankan seamer has even been damned by a comparison to Daren Powell, the Jamaican who endured such a miserable time at Old Trafford before being quietly released near the end of last season.
But such cynicism should be silenced by a two-word response: Glen Chapple. Simply, Lancashire needed another bowler to ease the workload on their captain and spearhead, especially in one-day cricket, if Chapple is to remain such a formidable force in the County Championship.
He turned 37 in January, making it even more impressive that he was ranked one of the three most effective bowlers in county cricket in the poll of coaches published in this month’s Wisden Cricketer magazine.
No wonder he is so respected. Last season, with 52 wickets at 19.75, was statistically his best ever – he was fifth in the first-class averages, and none of the four bowlers above him had taken as many.
But it merely maintained the remarkable standards Chapple has set in the last third of his long career, with the 264 wickets he has taken since 2005 coming at less than 23 runs apiece. Crucially, in 2010 he played in 14 of Lancashire’s 16 Championship matches, compared to 11, 11 and 12 in the previous three seasons.
For all the seam support on offer from the likes of Sajid Mahmood, Tom Smith, Kyle Hogg, Steven Cheetham, the fit-again Oliver Newby and possibly James Anderson for a couple of early-season matches, Lancashire’s only chance of mounting a genuine title challenge surely relies on their captain being available for most or ideally all of the fixtures.
That is where Maharoof comes in. His vast experience of 50-over and Twenty20 cricket should allow Chapple to take plenty of breaks between the Championship fixtures, without leaving Lancashire short of an old head in their attack.
“His ODI experience in particular will be of benefit, especially bowling at the end of the innings,” said cricket director Mike Watkinson, who consulted with Maharoof’s former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara before going through with the deal.
“Kumar gave him a glowing report,” he added. “He is at a stage in his career where he has a lot of international experience but is still only 26 and hasn’t been able to get back into the international side after picking up an injury. He sees this as a chance to get back into the Sri Lanka side. As value for money, it is an excellent signing, and he suits all our requirements.”