Importing a chance to keep Ballarat cricket alive | From the Press Box with Melanie Whelan

EXTRA BITE: Golden Point's new Sri Lankan import Tharanga Fernando adds a spin on the Pointies' game and is a chance for Point to shake things up a bit in the Ballarat Cricket Association. Picture: Dylan Burns

EXTRA BITE: Golden Point's new Sri Lankan import Tharanga Fernando adds a spin on the Pointies' game and is a chance for Point to shake things up a bit in the Ballarat Cricket Association. Picture: Dylan Burns

AN IMPORT in country cricket is like a Christmas bonus for players – if the club recruits the right one.

Napoleons-Sebastopol is set to unleash its English weapon in a bid to turn its lacklustre season around before the festive break.

Yorkshire all-rounder Ryan Gibson represented England in under-19s. Gibson also has had a taste of first class cricket in the United Kingdom.

And he has the potential to make a big impact on Ballarat turf with Naps-Sebas.

Cricket imports can add a vital extra dimension in a sport where a lack of depth and versatility can fast be exposed.

Bringing in international flavour is nothing new for Ballarat cricket clubs, but there is always debate as to whose spot they are taking up.

Development is crucial in any sport but particularly in grassroots clubs, who have a responsibility to foster emerging talent and give young talent chance to grow.

A good import or two can take the whole club to a new level.

Imports bring a fresh and exciting new element to the grassroots game. A good cricketer’s presence alone can offer a different perspective and technique – both in the game and how they go about their training.

Sport relies on sound tactics and it helps to have a source for a few new moves in mind games.

Golden Point has been introducing its Sri Lankan recruits to action, including Tharanga Fernando’s much-needed spin, which nabbed a scalp on debut last weekend.

The Pointies have been importing international talent into their firsts the past couple of seasons now, starting with Sri Lankan Saman Jayantha four summers ago. Former Jamaican cricket captain made a blasting impact once he finally arrived at Eastern Oval last season, belting out 60, 75 and 102 runs in Twenty20 showdowns.

But Naps-Sebas was the club that set the tone for imports in the BCA, luring well-known Sri Lankan Carman Mapatuna to the club in two stints. The all-rounder captured an EJ Cleary Medal, the BCA’s highest individual honour in 1997/98 and later was club captain-coach.

Mapatuna also pulled on the whites each year for Melbourne Country Week action and played a key development role for the association. 

It is not just what an import brings here that defines them, it is also what they give back. Mapatuna did this in spades.

On the flip side, it is just as important to send our top cricketers away. The annual Cricket Willow Scholarship has such a strong emphasis on holistic development and immersing in the English host community. What they learn from the whole experience, they can bring back to develop the game here.

Imports really grow the game and the right ones can really lift the standard, within the club in competing for spots, and for rivals to match.

Their work shows juniors, close-up, what is possible – especially when you land a player like Gibson, who was representing his nation when not much older than them.

Plus, it is always fun to have a few new faces to shake the competition up and dish captains some headaches.

UP NEXT: Classy English import Ryan Gibson arrived this week to help turn around Naps-Sebas firsts' fortunes and inspire some juniors in the game. Picture: Kate Healy

UP NEXT: Classy English import Ryan Gibson arrived this week to help turn around Naps-Sebas firsts' fortunes and inspire some juniors in the game. Picture: Kate Healy