Test star Ervine says non-qualified players can have place in inter-pros
Craig Ervine, the Zimbabwe Test match batsman who has ambitions of playing for Ireland, believes there is a place for non-qualified players in the RSA inter-provincial championship.
Ervine is one of 24 players who have turned out for the Northern Knights this year as Ireland pursue their dream of Test match status by 2020 by developing a first-class structure.
And Ervine, the 28-year-old from Harare, who is in his second season with Lisburn and says players with big match experience can only help that ambition.
"It's understandable that only Irish players should play in one-day and T20 formats but in three-day games you do need guys with experience because it is a longer game and you have the time," says Ervine.
"Why not have the locals play in the one-day stuff and then let them build off the experienced players in the three-day format? You do need those guys who have played the longer format just to mix it up with those guys who haven't."
Ervine scored 92 in the Knights' last three-day game, against the North West Warriors, at Osborne Park last month and came under fire in some quarters for taking up the place of a player who is available to play for Ireland.
At the moment, Ervine cannot be called up until 2017 but following his retirement from the Zimbabwe Test team this year he has confirmed he would like to resume his international career with Ireland.
"It is something I've thought about. There is a process I have to go through to qualify so I will have to speak to the right people and see if it going to be a route for me to take," said the Irish passport-holder, via his great, great, grandfather.
"Playing for Knights was a very good experience for me. It's been quite tough playing three-day cricket over here in these conditions because the games don't actually go three days, but it's just the start of the inter-provincials so I'm sure as it continues it will get a lot stronger."
Ervine, who will be in action next week at Waringstown in the final three-day game of the Championship against Leinster Lightning, has already noticed the difference between the international-studded Leinster Lightning team and the inexperienced Warriors team, with the Knights somewhere in the middle, and that needs attention, he believes. I think they will have to try and balance out the sides because it seems that when North West meet Leinster they don't have much of a chance.
"I'm sure Ireland cricket will keep improving. I was over here in 2009 and it wasn't as strong. And with the provincial games being brought in, it can only help Irish cricket," adds Ervine.
Somewhat controversially, maybe, he believes that Ireland are still behind Zimbabwe in the pecking order of world cricket, but that could change.
"They don't play each other that often, while Zim play Bangladesh quite often. I think Zimbabwe will have to tour Ireland and vice versa to get a good idea but I think Zim just have the edge over Ireland at the moment, although playing Test cricket does help," he admits.
"Most of the Irish guys are experienced and it's trying to replace people like Trent Johnston (pictured), to keep Ireland's success going, that will be the big test."
But Zimbabwe remains a troubled country and Kyle Jarvis, Zimbabwe's 24-year-old opening bowler, became the latest player to quit international cricket at the weekend. It still came as a surprise to his former team-mate.
"With the Pakistan series coming up, the timing is a surprise but he obviously thinks Lancashire offers him the most secure future," said Ervine.
"With the situation that Zimbabwe is in at the minute it makes it quite tough to go back there and play cricket with all the financial problems and when I was offered a contract in April, after we got back from the West Indies, there were a few issues so I felt coming over here was the best option. I'm lucky I do have an Irish passport which allows me to get over to other places.
"Things aren't going well in Zimbabwe Cricket. They are running at a loss with the tours and there's a lot of work to be done before the 2015 World Cup (when their fourth match is against Ireland in Tasmania) if they are going to move forward."
Ervine's next move is a winter in Australia, where he will meet up with some Zimbabwe friends and play club cricket in Perth before returning to Lisburn where is looking forward to batting on the new pitches at Wallace Park and seeing a continued improvement in NCU cricket.
"Club cricket has improved in the four years, since I was last here.
"You do get the odd wicket where is quite hard for sides to bat on and the Lisburn wicket has been tough this season, but next season the new wickets will be ready. So I will definitely be back."