Picture: Graham Morris/The Times.

Last week the ECB CEO Tom Harrison sent a formal proposal to Cricket Australia encouraging the involvement of English cricketers in the Sheffield Shield.

Recent Test debutant Sam Billings weighed in on the debate, describing his time playing with Australian Test Captain Pat Cummins for Penrith Cricket Club as the best thing he ever did. 

Speaking after the Test, Billings said the opportunity to play Grade Cricket in Australia unlocked a "different mentality...you learn your game, you learn your craft". Billings also stated the chance to play in the Sheffield Shield would offer a "huge amount of value" for young English cricketers.

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The last English cricketer to play in the Shield was Hampshire leg-spinner Mason Crane who got the call up to the New South Wales side with both Stephen O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon unavailable for selection.

Broadcaster and former International fast-bowler Isa Guha weighed in on Harrison's proposal stating that there were 18 English signings in the BBL and believes they could impact the Sheffield Shield and bring a contest for the fans and broadcasters.

The foreign influence on the Australian Domestic scene is a unique tale.

Some of the greatest players the game has ever known have spent summers down under, striking fear into batters and bowlers alike. 

Before Shane Warne, the greatest leg-spinner for Australia was Clarrie Grimmett. Widely regarded as the inventor of the 'Flipper,' Grimmett took 216 Test wickets from only 37 matches at an average of 24.21 and holds the Shield wickets record with 513 wickets from only 79 matches.

Grimmett might have never had the opportunity to further his cricket if he hadn't moved to Australia from New Zealand at 23-years-of-age. After three years of club cricket in Sydney, Grimmett moved to Victoria, then finally to South Australia, making his Test debut at 33 years of age.

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The summer of 1960-61 was monumental for international cricket in Australia. The West Indies came over and played in a thrilling Test series, which ended 2-1 in Australia's favour.

The men from the Caribbean were extremely popular with the Australian crowds, the fifth and final Test in Melbourne seeing a total of 274,424 attend the match and a then-record 90,800 attend the second day's play.

Following this great success, the West Indies likeable fast bowler Wes Hall, superstar all-rounder Garry Sobers and diminutive yet dynamic middle-order bat Rohan Kanhai joined Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, respectively, for the 1961-62 Shield Season.

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Hall spent two seasons with Queensland taking 76 wickets at 26.28, Kanhai spent two separate seasons at Western Australia and Tasmania, hitting 841 runs at 64.69. 

Yet, Sir Garfield Sobers' time in South Australia is still revered by many. 

In the 1963-64 season, Sobers was a one-man team, leading the batting and bowling across the eight matches. His stat sheet saw 973 runs at 74.84, including five centuries and 47 wickets at 27.59.

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If cricket could follow suit with the Marvel What if...? TV series, then Barry Richards' career would be number one on the list. One of the most aggressive stroke makers, The Apartheid ended Richards' career in a tale of tragedy.

506 runs at 72.57 in only four Tests, Richards' could've broken many Test records. Instead, he was left to bludgeon attacks worldwide.

Richards joined South Australia in 1970-71 and amassed 1538 runs at an average of 109.80. Richards scored 7 and 45 not out on debut against Western Australia, but their next clash set tongues wagging.

On November 20th, 1970, Richards hit 325 runs in one day. Against an attack featuring three International bowlers in Graham Mackenzie, Dennis Lillee, and Tony Lock, Richards finished his sizzling innings with 356 off 381 deliveries, including 48 fours. 

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Before Richards' magnificent 356 in 1968, Colin Milburn blasted 181 runs in a single session for Western Australia in 1968. 7 runs from his first 33 balls, Milburn made 236 runs from his next 195 deliveries, Milburn's 181 run stint between Lunch and Tea is still the record for most runs in a session in a Sheffield Shield match. 

After World Series, there was a foreign legion renaissance during the late 1970s and mid-1980s, names like Hadlee, Richards, Garner, Holding, Imran Khan, and Botham joined the Sheffield Shield.

The 'Master Blaster' Viv Richards joined Queensland after dismantling England in 1977 for the West Indies. Richards averaged a mere 30 in the Sheffield Shield from four matches yet smoked 143 off 140 balls against the touring Pakistani side. 

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Richard Hadlee was the next big name to venture down under fronting up for Tasmania. Hadlee averaged 36 with the ball yet bowled tidily against Queensland in his second Shield clash, taking 5/55 off 28.2 in the second innings.

Hadlee would go on to love bowling in Australia, famously bowling them to a Test Series victory in 1985/86 with 33 wickets at 12.15 from only three Tests. 

The Sheffield Shield was poised for a season like no other in 1982/83, with many batters sharing a simultaneous quiver of fear as West Indian fire-breathing quicks Joel Garner and Michael Holding touched down for a season of domestic cricket

Standing at 203cm, 'Big Bird' Garner was virtually unplayable with 55 wickets at 17.74 for the South Australians. Garner took 11/170 off 58 overs on a flat Adelaide Oval pitch against New South Wales yet saved his best for a Titan-like clash against Michael Holding in Launceston.

Holding, who finished equal fourth on the wickets list with 36 at 25.08, bowled first, taking 2/82 off 31 overs, and Garner outdid his Caribbean teammate with 7/78 off 33.1 overs. 

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Pakistan's tearaway captain and now President Imran Khan also ventured to the Sheffield Shield for a season at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Guiding the likes of future Australian Test Captain Steve Waugh, Imran and the New South Wales side achieved the unique double of winning the Shield Final and the McDonald Cup (One Day Final).

Imran hit 73 not out in the One Day semi-final against Victoria and hit 36 and took a wicket against South Australia in the final. In the Shield final against Queensland, Imran opened the bowling taking 4/66 off 27.3 in the first innings and 5/34 off 19 in the second innings to set his side a manageable chase of 223. New South Wales nearly shot themselves in the foot, yet won the final by one wicket in one of the most significant Shield clashes in history.

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The Great 'Beefy' Lord Ian Botham joined the mighty Queensland side featuring Allan Border in 1987/88 for an arduous journey. Botham's numbers weren't shocking, with 646 runs in 11 matches at an average of 34 and 29 wickets at 27.75. Botham's time at Queensland ended bizarrely with the English champion arrested for an incident on the plane to Queensland Sheffield Shield final clash against Western Australia.

There was a confrontation on the plane, and Botham was taken to prison. He was eventually released with an $800 fine. Queensland lost the final by five wickets, and Botham was handed a $5000 fine, and his $300,000 contract over three years with the Bulls was ended.

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Many pundits believe Cricket Australia must accept the ECBs proposal to keep the Ashes competitive. They are certainly looking at this idea from a rating standpoint instead of putting the proposal out there for any aspiring International cricketer who wants to try their luck in the domestic scene. 

There should be two spots on each state's list for international cricketers who want to play four-day cricket. Now, I'm not just talking about England; this can be from any cricketing nation, Ireland, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Nepal, you name it.

Indeed a season on a State's list would further their development and cricket development in general. Hence, this would make the Sheffield Shield more competitive and exciting for the audience.