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New South Wales has produced a lot of top-level cricketers. However, not all of them have gone on to represent NSW at a first-class/List A level. Many have switched loyalties, such as Sir Don Bradman (SA), Phil Hughes (SA), Adam Gilchrist (WA), Adam Zampa (SA) and Usman Khawaja (QLD). Others, such as Nathan Lyon, may have started their careers elsewhere (Lyon himself started at SA, although he is at NSW now).

Is this a function of population (NSW is the most populous state in Australia), or is there something deeper? Or am I wrong about this "phenomenon" (that NSW has produced a lot of cricketers of whom many have gone on to play elsewhere) in the first place?

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At a simple level, this is a numbers game. Australia has a population of approximately 25 million, and 6 state sides. Very, very roughly this means that if you are in the top (66 / 25,000,000) = 0.0003% of the population you are good enough to play state level cricket.

New South Wales has a population of approximately 8 million. If we assume that cricketing talent is equally distributed throughout the country, this means that it will have around (8,000,000 * 0.0003%) = 21 "state level" cricketers. These can't all play for NSW, so half of them will have to play elsewhere.

This is a dramatic oversimplification for all sorts of reasons, but the same principles will apply even if you take a more accurate model: the ratio of people : available places is higher in NSW than the average for the country.

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