DUBAI // The well-trodden path from the Highveldt to the English national team might yield another England player next month, after Michael Lumb was named this week in the provisional squad for the World Twenty20 championships in the West Indies. Like Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, and, most recently, Craig Kieswetter, Lumb's cricket upbringing was South African, rather than English.
He was born in Johannesburg and numbers Graeme Smith, the Proteas captain, among his rivals growing up. He attended the same school, St Stithians College, as Grant Elliot, another South African who found fortune as an international cricketer elsewhere, as an all-rounder for New Zealand. England's national selector, Geoff Miller, hinted recently that there might be curbs on the number of nationalised players in the senior side recently when he stated: "I might put a kind of block on it, as such. We understand the concerns - I'm an Englishman myself."
With 129 first-class matches with Yorkshire and Hampshire to his name, as well as being one of the original intake of the ECB national academy, Lumb's right to represent England should not be questioned. That is the view of David Parsons, the performance director of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) who headed the England Lions coaching staff on their tour of the Emirates last month. Parsons said: "As far as I'm concerned, Michael has been qualified for quite some time.
"He has been playing county cricket for a number of years, he was even part of the ECB national academy seven or eight years ago, so he has been in the system for quite some time. He has learned a lot of his cricket playing in England, as a qualifier player, playing for Yorkshire and Hampshire. He deserves his place in this Lions team and this [elite development] programme and if, at some point in the future, international honours come his way, he will have deserved those."
Lumb established himself as the next batsman in line for a call-up, at least in the Twenty20 format, when he starred for the Lions in the Emirates. Kieswetter has already made the leap from that tour party to the national team, mainly on the basis of 81 he made when the Lions beat their senior colleagues in a 20 over game in Abu Dhabi. It could have been very different. Kieswetter was actually the tardier partner in a blistering opening partnership with Lumb at the Zayed Cricket Stadium that day.
Lumb was briefly forced off the field when a bouncer from Stuart Broad cut his chin. While he was having treatment, Kieswetter was hogging the limelight. Although Lumb did return in time to steer the Lions to a spectacular win by belting the last two balls of the match to the rope for fours, it was Kieswetter who got the nod. It is likely to be only a minor hold-up for the Hampshire batsman. Security permitting, Lumb will line up alongside his former county colleague Shane Warne, for the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League later this month.
Parsons, for one, expects him to shine. He added: "I certainly hope he goes well. If you look at his performances over the last few years, in particular in one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket last year, he has a strike-rate which is up there with the best in the world." firstname.lastname@example.org