How far Ireland cricket has come…
Growing up playing cricket in England, with an Irish mother, I was often asked if I wanted to play cricket for Ireland. A question I remember laughing at back then. Ireland? Rugby perhaps yes, but cricket. Do they even play cricket in Ireland? Well very soon Irish cricketers could actually be playing Test cricket for Ireland. That’s how far we’ve come.
Today is the first of two One-Day Internationals between England and Ireland at the Brightside Ground in Bristol and then at Lords on Sunday. It is also the first time that Ireland will have played England in England.
It is now six years since Ireland’s famous 2011 ODI World Cup victory over England, and they could possibly field up to seven of that team. Ed Joyce, William Porterfield and the O’Brien brothers are still key today for the Irish. They come into this series on the back of some recent indifferent form with some disappointing T20 & ODI defeats to Afghanistan in India.
England, who are preparing for the forthcoming ICC Champions Trophy have selected a strong squad despite missing a number of their IPL players and don’t have anyone remaining from that match. They arguably have strengthened their one-day pedigree over the last few years and Ireland could face a difficult couple of days on the pitch.
It’s a shame that the players who have taken Ireland through such a glorious period in their cricket history are coming towards the twilight of their careers just as Ireland are on the brink of becoming a full ICC member and being granted full Test status.
This will be a huge boost for the development of cricket in Ireland. The past decade has seen considerable administrative improvements. A first-class structure now exists, with full time player contracts, sponsorship agreements, a national broadcast deal and a growing active player base. Funding would further increase with full ICC membership that would continue to grow grassroots and junior cricket but also develop key high performance facilities.
It’ll be interesting and key to see how the next generation of Irish players develop as they work towards their first Test match. It’ll allow players to compete internationally for the country of their birth rather than feel that they have to come to England to have a full international career. One final interesting fact about today is that there could be more players born in Ireland on the pitch than in England. Who’d have thought that 20 years ago!
By Perry Rendell (MD)