Riki Wessels qualifies to play for England

DANIELLE Wyatt starred with bat and ball in the Big Bash League.

DANIELLE Wyatt starred with bat and ball in the Big Bash League.

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Whilst Jake Ball comes to terms with his elevation to England’s Test ranks this week, another Nottinghamshire player has moved a step closer to putting himself into international contention.

For the last couple of years Riki Wessels has been one of the most consistent white ball cricketers around. Whether he’s been smashing centuries in one-day contests or clubbing huge sixes in the T20 Blast, observers have looked on and wondered why he hasn’t had a call up yet.

The reason is simple. He hasn’t been qualified – until now!

“It’s finally happened,” he revealed, “On Wednesday I had to go to a neutralisation ceremony at Welbeck Hall in West Bridgford.

“I had to swear an oath to the Queen and was given a certificate. There were about 15 or 20 people there, all going through the same process.”

Born in Queensland, Riki was adopted from a young age by former South African and Australian Test batsman Kepler Wessels and his wife.

Raised in Port Elizabeth, Riki first got his chance in the county game with Northants, making his debut for them in 2005.

Although Emily, his wife, is English and the couple have a two year old daughter, Riki’s far-from-ordinary upbringing has taken some unravelling with the passport authorities.

“They’ve changed the eligibility criteria fairly regularly,” he said. “Things have changed quite a lot. I moved here in 2004 and decided them that I wanted to try and become a British citizen.

“It’s taken a bit longer than I planned,” he laughed. “There has been a lot of paperwork filled in over the last four years.”

The process has meant that he has had to renounce his South African citizenship and he can’t even travel abroad for a while, whilst awaiting his first British passport. “Now that everything has gone through I’ve got to fill the forms in and apply for my passport, they say it should be around six to eight weeks before it comes.”

This week’s events have cricketing implications for the prolific batsman, of course. “I am now available to play for England,” he declared. “And that’s very much an ambition. I’m only 30, in good form and feel I have a few good years left in me yet.”

Particularly at Trent Bridge Wessels is having ‘some season’, with scores of 52, 58, 146, 76 and 80 not out (made from only 35 balls) in his five limited-overs appearances at Nottinghamshire’s headquarters.

There’s no doubt that he’s in good form and if do England come calling – he’s now qualified!