YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale has questioned whether the decision to deport Australian pace bowler Mitchell Starc was necessary after complications with his visa meant that he was forced to leave the country on Tuesday.
Starc was ordered to go back to Australia, because his visa form was not correctly filled out, before returning to the UK to present the correct documentation to the Border Agency.
Starc was last night understood to be stranded in Kuala Lumpur while a decision is taken on whether he can, after all, return to England immediately, while his agent Andrew Fraser vigorously denied Yorkshire’s claim that he was at fault for the red-tape fiasco.
“We have followed the correct procedure and it’s just unfortunate it couldn’t be worked out at their (England’s) end,” said Fraser, after the wrong paperwork was allegedly submitted.
“I don’t want to discredit anyone; it’s just an honest administrative blunder, but it’s embarrassing for the British authorities.”
However, regardless of who is at fault, Gale said commonsense should have prevailed and that it is unsatisfactory Starc was packed on a plane in the first place to attend to a simple administrative issue. Speaking at the County Ground in Bristol yesterday, where play on the opening day of Yorkshire’s County Championship match against Gloucestershire fell foul of rain, Gale queried whether Starc’s case had been appropriately handled.
“You’d think that commonsense would prevail,” he said. “You’ve got an elite sportsman who’s not trying to do the system and yet he’s got to go all the way round the world to sort out the problem.
“Why couldn’t they have sorted it out from this end instead of him travelling?
“Even if they’d said to him ‘you can’t work or anything until this has been sorted’, surely it stops the lad going on a long flight and then coming all the way back? It’s a nightmare from his point of view and a nightmare from ours.”
Yorkshire are hopeful that Starc, a 22-year-old left-arm pace bowler, will be back in the next few days to fulfil the remaining four weeks of a contract that could be extended for the rest of the season.
But travel fatigue could rule him out of the next Championship match at home to Hampshire on Wednesday, while Gale revealed that after all the fuss which followed his entry into the country on Saturday, with Starc having been questioned for several hours at Heathrow Airport before travelling north to meet his new team-mates, he would not have played at Bristol in any case.
“Mitchell was going to travel with us but he wouldn’t have played in the match,” said Gale.
“The plan was for him to do some training this week, to have a bowl with the Dukes ball – because he’s never bowled with a Dukes ball before – and basically to settle in. Fingers crossed he’ll be back for the Hampshire game, but we’ve got to manage him properly because he’s doing a hell of a lot of travelling.
“We’re confident we’ll have him for a long period of time – possibly the rest of the season if Australia don’t want him – and that’s why it’s worth just sticking with this situation and seeing it through.”
Gale stressed Yorkshire had done everything by the book in relation to Starc, who has played four Tests and seven one-day internationals.
“I hope people don’t hold it against us,” he added. “As a club we’ve done everything we could possibly do and have bent over backwards to accommodate the player.
“We’ve sorted out his car, his house, everything. I think the visa situation is down to his agent, but it’s frustrating.”
Equally as frustrating is the inclement weather that has blighted matches up and down the country.
Yorkshire’s opening four Championship games were all affected, while yesterday’s washout followed torrential overnight rain and morning showers in the South West.
“We can’t seem to get going at the moment because of the weather,” bemoaned Gale, whose side are hoping to build on their first victory of the season against Leicestershire last week.
“You wake up in the morning and it always seems to be raining, and you just think to yourself, ‘here we go again’.
“The bottom line is it’s very hard to win games of cricket in two-and-a-half/three days.
“You’ve got to play extremely well to do that, and we’re desperate to continue the momentum we built up last week.”
Gale is also anxious to maintain his personal momentum, having scored 80 against Leicestershire in a fighting display.
Yorkshire were 33-3 in their first innings before Gale helped transform a bleak position.
“I felt in good nick last week,” he said, “although I was disappointed not to get a hundred. I had one poor shot all innings really, and that was the one that got me out when I edged to the ‘keeper.
“A hundred was there for the taking and I’d worked hard to get into that position.
“The frustrating thing is that I rarely get out between 70 and 100; if I get to fifty I tend to go on, so I was a little bit hacked off about that.”