Guten tag, herr Warne?
A lot has been reported in the last week about Shane Warne and Germany, since Warne revealed that as his mother was born in Germany, he was planning on applying for a German passport so that he could play for Hampshire as a non-overseas player.
If it did go ahead, he'd play as an EU player (not a Kolpak player as some have erroneously reported) under the same ruling that allows the likes of Ryan ten Doeschate to play county cricket as non-overseas players, namely the Bosman ruling, better known in soccer.
But could it go ahead? The way I read it, it couldn't. For people born to a German parent before 1975, citizenship can only be passed down by descent if the father is German. If the mother is German, it can only be passed down if the parents were unmarried, or if the child was registered as German before 1979.
As Warne was born in 1969, it seems he would not be able to gain a German passport without settling in Germany for up to eight years, not to mention learning the language, unless one of the two clauses mentioned in the previous paragraph. Warne would not have to give up his precious Australian nationality though, as German law does allow dual nationality for those who were born in another country.
So could Warne play cricket for Germany? Probably not. Even if he did have German nationality, he'd have to wait four years after his last match for Australia (i.e. until 2011) and fulfil the ICC's development criteria that all non-test players must fulfil. And as cricket does not allow players to play for a team based on their parents nationality unlike other sports, if he doesn't have German nationality, it is unlikely that he'd be able to play without (again) settling in Germany.
So whilst we probably won't see Warne pulling on the German shirt in the 2011 World Cup (if Germany get there) that does not mean that Warne wouldn't be welcomed with open arms by German cricket.
Keith Thompson, the coach of the German national team has already said that Warne would be welcome to play for the side in the future. Whilst as I've already said that is unlikely to happen, some advice from a player of Shane Warne's stature can only be good for the German players as they prepare for Division Five of the World Cricket League and Division Two of the European Championships next year.
If Warne is interested in visiting Germany to explore his heritage, perhaps he could fit in a coaching session with the German national side. It would be great for those players. After all, how many players from the non-test nations of world cricket could say that they've been coached by one of the greatest players ever to play the game?