Warning bells will be ringing once more in South Africa after Northamptonshire signed Ricardo Vasconcelos as a wicketkeeper batsman.
While the 20-year-old was born in Johannesburg and has represented Boland and South Africa Under-19s, he will not be considered an overseas player as he has a Portuguese passport. It is understood that he had been of interest to other counties.
He will arrive ahead of the start of the Championship season and offers reinforcement for a squad that lost wicketkeeper David Murphy at the end of last season – Murphy has decided to concentrate on a career in law – and is likely to be without Ben Duckett for the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from surgery on an injured finger. It may also be relevant that Northants could face quite a fight to retain the services of Duckett beyond the 2018 season.
Northants will also be without Rory Kleinveldt, the former South Africa seamer who has been their overseas player since 2015, for the start of the season, though they expect him to return ahead of the Royal London Cup campaign.
While the signing of Vasconcelos could reignite talk about the success (or otherwise) of county development systems, there may be more disquiet in South Africa. With several players on the fringes of selection for the national side having already chosen a future in county cricket – notably Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw and Simon Harmer, with Morne Morkel expected to follow shortly – there will be concern that a young man good enough to represent a CSA Invitational XI as recently as December has committed himself to England for the foreseeable future. He has been obliged to renounce his right to represent South Africa as part of the deal, though such actions are reversible.
The statistics from Vasconcelos’ early career are compelling. While South African domestic cricket is not as strong as it once was, the fact that he has scored two centuries and three half-centuries in his first 10 first-class games suggests he is a highly promising cricketer.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to represent Northants, it is a massive opportunity that I hope to grab with both hands,”
Vasconcelos said. “I am looking forward to work with and learn from some of the more experienced players so that I can accelerate my growth as a player as quickly as possible. I am also eager to try and contribute as much as I can to the team’s success.”
Northamptonshire’s head coach, David Ripley, added: “He’s a young, hungry cricketer who’s able to provide wicket-keeper cover and push the guys for batting spots. It’s great to have him on board.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.