Ripley reassures Northants Cricket fans over recruitment policy

Northants head coach David Ripley
Northants head coach David Ripley

Northants head coach David Ripley insists there will be no return to the days when the club’s recruiting eye was focused squarely on the southern tip of Africa.

The County earlier this week announced the signing of Pakistan-born seam bowler Mohammad Azharullah, with the 29-year-old qualifying as a non-overseas player because of marriage.

And while that will inevitably lead to criticism that any local, untested potential has been all too readily overlooked in favour of the ready-made – a situation that reached it’s nadir when the line-up included six non-English qualified players against Leicestershire in 2008 –Ripley has stressed that this isn’t the case.

He said: “I’m very aware of this fact and that people will flag it up and I don’t want to go back to those days.

“It will be a constant thing that we’ll be reviewing our selections with regard to how many English qualified players we put on to the field.

“I think that we will be able to provide plenty of opportunities for the likes of (Olly) Stone and (Luke) Evans and that’s what we have to do.”

And Ripley points towards the numerous young players that have come through the club’s development system as evidence that the hierarchy’s thinking is longer rather than shorter term.

He continued: “We’ve worked hard on developing young English players and I would throw that back at anyone who is criticising.

“The likes of (Rob) Newton, (Ben) Duckett and (David) Willey have all come through our ranks and we want that to continue in the future.”

But as for the present, Ripley is happy that after a spell of assessment he has finally got his man.

Azharullah, who was recommended to the club by Ralph Middlebrook – father of James – after being spotted playing league cricket in Yorkshire, had been practising with the squad and Ripley said that the opportunity was too good to turn down.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to move on this and get him in,” he added. “The club moved quite decisively and raided the cupboard for a bit of finance and it all came down to the timing.

“His record (190 first-class wickets at 26.5) suggests that he is a proven performer who is in his prime and he will give us something that is different.”

What the new arrival will do is help create a situation with the bowling attack that looks a lot better than it did last year, a factor that Ripley acknowledges.

He said: “It looks healthy and is one that we’d like to be in. We’ve probably got one more seamer than we need but it’s a heavy schedule that we’re got and while it might be challenging as there will be some disappointed lads, it definitely puts us in a much better position.”