The saga of Mitchell Starc has kept various parties either infuriated, frustrated or amused. Starc, the left arm Aussie paceman, has every right to be infuriated. He flew all the way from Australia to take up his contract with only to be told that he could not enter the country because of visa complications.
Yorkshire, we can safely say, were frustrated, especially in the week when they have bid farewell to Ajmal Shahzad, who just happens to have taken up a loan contract with arch-rivals Lancashire. The rest of us have been quietly amused. Somehow misfortunes in Yorkshire or among Australians have the capacity to raise a smile elsewhere, however unjust that may seem.
Starc's comings and goings highlight some of the pitfalls a county now has to face when hiring an overseas player in the 21st century. There are complex visa requirements and the player concerned must have fulfilled certain criteria – he has to have played a minimum number of international matches within the last year. Then there are so many competing fixtures at international level and at the IPL so that his availability is severely reduced. So the finishing school that county cricket once offered overseas players has lost some of its lustre.
In some ways all the 21st century restrictions are a pity. For example, if they had applied almost 40 years ago we might not have glimpsed at Somerset the young Viv Richards, whom I'm looking forward to seeing at a dinner on Friday at Hove.
Richards' story is a good one. He came to Somerset as a complete unknown; he had not played any international cricket, just a few games in the Leeward Islands. A Bath bookmaker, Len Creed, a bit of a rogue if we are honest, but a benign one, took a punt. He paid for the young Richards to come to England to play a season at Lansdown CC in Bath and then to join Somerset in 1974. Only when it came apparent that this was a not such a gamble and that Richards was a genius, who simply had to be given a contract, did the club reimburse Creed. For once it was not necessarily the bookmaker who got the best of the deal. But he was smiling anyway when Richards pummelled an unbeaten 81 in his first match.
Such a glorious entry into the first-class game, with enterprise rewarded and a young talent burgeoning before our eyes, would not be possible today.
Richards would have to have played a few ODIs or the odd Test before a county could consider him as an overseas player. Even then he would probably only be available during a six-to-eight week window.
This situation frustrates the counties. It may even frustrate the overseas players as well. They do not have time to really become an integral part of their club. Nor do they have the experience of batting on all sorts of different surfaces whether it be April or September.
There may even be a correlation between the change in status and availability of overseas players and the decline of West Indies cricket. I'll leave that for you to discuss …
Monday 14 May, 11 update
• Jonny Bairstow for the first Test against West Indies at Lord's. The full squad is: AJ Strauss (captain), JM Anderson, JM Bairstow, IR Bell, TT Bresnan, SCJ Broad, AN Cook, ST Finn, G Onions, KP Pietersen, MJ Prior, GP Swann, IJL Trott.
• England Lions , with Joe Root making an impressive 115 not out as England easily chased their target of 197.