Essex’s Simon Harmer admits hopes of representing England are over

Essex spinner Simon Harmer believes the door has closed on his hopes of representing England.

The 31-year-old off-spinner, who has played five Tests for South Africa, has spoken publicly of his desire to represent England after starring as a Kolpak player for Essex in county cricket.

Harmer has taken 212 County Championship wickets since joining Essex as a Kolpak player in 2017, helping the Chelmsford side to Division One titles in 2017 and 2019.

He revealed that he would “love” to play for England in an interview with the Daily Mail last year, but, speaking after taking 14 wickets in Essex’s Bob Willis Trophy win over Surrey, Harmer says he thinks changes to the Kolpak rules have taken that chance away from him.

Since 2004, cricketers from EU Association Agreement countries have qualified as non-overseas players under the Kolpak ruling, but the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union forced the England and Wales Cricket Board to issue guidance that Kolpak cricketers will no longer be classed as local players.

When asked if his England hopes were over, Harmer said: “I think so. With the Kolpak ruling changing, as far as I know with clarity, the Kolpaks will fall away at the end of the year when England leaves the EU and therefore the door closes.

“I have explored trying to get onto a different visa so that I can have more rights, in terms of buying property and a whole load of other things, but I got a very stern ‘no’ from (head of cricket operations) Alan Fordham at the ECB.

“As far as I am concerned there is no future there.”

The rule changes may restrict Harmer’s chances of representing Essex in future seasons and look set to mean any international ambition will need to be in a South Africa shirt, almost five years since his last Test.

Harmer said he would welcome the chance to talk to South Africa director of cricket Graeme Smith, but remains focused on Essex.

“I think there needs to be an open door policy from both sides and there needs to be commitment from both sides,” he added.

“There is quite a bit that needs to happen but I am all for having discussions but for now it is a long way off.

Harmer has helped Essex to a trophy glut in recent seasons
Harmer has helped Essex to a trophy glut in recent seasons

“There is a lot happening back home in South Africa to do with coronavirus. When is cricket going to get going again etc?

“I try to keep things short term and try and take care of the now. As far as I’m concerned, my main focus is with my employer which is Essex.

“I don’t look too far ahead and just try to do as well as I possibly can.

“If other things happen and fall into place then what will be will be. I can only focus on myself, my own performances, on Essex and trying to contribute as I can to winning as many trophies as I possible can. As a professional cricketer that’s what it all boils down to.”