Of all the effects Brexit has had on the world, it probably ranks among the more minor. But Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union will even be felt at a cricket World Cup being held in the Middle East.
Because of Brexit, a law brought about by a Slovakian handball player was removed from UK sport, thus meaning a former South African cricketer is now getting set to represent Namibia in the T20 World Cup in the UAE.
Confused? Well, the important part of the story is that Namibia will be able to call on the services of David Wiese, an all-rounder who represented the Proteas at the last T20 World Cup five years ago. And a player who has been a star of the franchise T20 circuit for much of the time since – not least in UAE.
And neither is Wiese flying the flag of convenience. The 36-year-old former Royal Challengers Bangalore player initially had designs on representing Namibia way before being picked for South Africa.
“It has been 10 years or so in the making,” Wiese said.
“Namibia used to play in the South African domestic set up back in the day when I was still playing semi-professionally.
“As soon as they heard I had Namibian ties – my dad was born there, a lot of my family are there – they started speaking to me about playing.
“This went on for quite a few years. It got to the stage where we were busy doing the paperwork. Then I got chosen to play for South Africa.”
When the Proteas came calling the idea of representing the land of his father dissipated.
He played for South Africa before opting to move to the UK to play as a Kolpak player – a rule named after former handball player Maros Kolpak, which enabled a number of foreigners to qualify as non-overseas players in county cricket.
Britain’s subsequent withdrawal from the EU ended the right of anyone with a work permit from a country with an associate trading agreement with the EU the same status as an EU worker.
“As soon as Brexit happened and Kolpak dissolved, Albie Morkel [one of Namibia’s coaches] got in touch and said, ‘Look, let’s get your international career back on track. If you are keen, let’s get things going’,” Wiese said.
“The process was simple because my dad was born in Namibia, he is a citizen, he has a passport, ID. For me, getting my citizenship was quick.
“I would have already been eligible to play in the World Cup if it was last year, but having it this year because of Covid just gave us a little bit more time.”
Wiese made his belated debut for Namibia in low-key circumstances in the T20 international on Tuesday. Early on a workday morning in Dubai, he was part of a side who soundly beat UAE in front of not one spectator.
His own contribution was nondescript, save for a stunning diving catch. But Namibia are well aware they have a new “gem” – as captain Gerhard Erasmus describes Wiese – in their midst.
Wiese also has some handy local knowledge, too, notably in Sharjah, where Namibia will play their potentially-decisive final game in the opening round against Ireland on Friday, October 22.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Wiese hit the winning runs for Lahore Qalandars in front of a pulsating crowd at the UAE’s oldest cricket venue in the Pakistan Super League. In the most dramatic style, too: a six off the final ball.
“That for me was a special moment in terms of kick starting my career again,” Wiese said.
“I signed Kolpak with the idea I would play in the UK, then try to pick up as many gigs on the circuit as possible.
“I did that, then didn’t get any gigs in my first year. I didn’t get picked up anywhere.
“I went to the PSL as a late replacement – I think Carlos Brathwaite had to go back and play in the West Indies – and that was my first game in the tournament.
“That set me up to play in all the other tournaments. Since then, Lahore has been very good to me, retained me every single year, and I have picked up different gigs.
“That was a turning point for me, and allowed me to announce myself on that stage and get my name out there again.”
Coincidentally, Wiese was on the receiving end of something similar the very next evening. This time bowling, he was hit for six off the final ball instead, as Qalandars lost out to Quetta Gladiators.
If Namibia are to advance to the Super 12 stage of the World Cup, via a last-ball six against Ireland in Sharjah, Wiese knows which role he would prefer to play.
“I’ve had the experience of facing the last ball in Sharjah having to hit a six,” he said. “Fortunately, for me it worked out.
“I think the bowlers are always under a little bit more pressure than what the batsmen are.
“In that situation, I would much rather be in a position to have a swing than have to deliver that final yorker.”