June 20, 2007

Ireland

Irish game on a sticky wicket

Martin Williamson

In The Daily Telegraph Tony Francis travels to Ireland to see if the World Cup was a flash in the pan or something more significant. The findings are not that encouraging, but he does flag an interesting point when he talks to some players from Derry. They believe that:-

“The authorities should encourage indigenous cricketers and scale down their dependency on Australians, South Africans and Asians who migrated to Dublin when the economy took off in the Nineties. Unless they can block the drain of talent to England by contracting Ireland's young elite such as Boyd Rankin, Niall O'Brien and Eoin Morgan, who all play county cricket, they'll need more Johnstons and Bothas if they're to have any chance of building on their international success.”

The issue will continue to dominate as a number of players refuse to play for Ireland because of their count commitments.

“The Irish Cricket Union would rather avoid a repeat of the Ed Joyce scenario. While understanding his career decision and wishing him well at Middlesex, most followers were hurt to see an Irishman representing England in the World Cup. It was like watching Roy Keane sing God Save the Queen.”

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Al on (June 22, 2007, 13:26 GMT)

As another "mongrel like Chadders (English, Irish and Scottish in my case) I have to say I dislike the idea of the England test side becoming "Britain and Ireland." Test cricket has a long and distinct history as does the England side, and I just don't think playing for "Britain and Ireland would be the same. However, I still like the idea of making Ireland and Scotland full counties and having a 20 strong county championship. That way Ireland and Scotland could keep their best players, get regular cricket and ECB and ICC could invest a bit more of that sponsorship and TV revenue in the game. Look at how it helped Zimbabwe's (then Rhodesia's) development to play domestic cricket in South Africa. It would also help if they were given the tour games played by foreign sides coming to the UK. The series involving South Africa, India, Pakistan and West Indies variously are a start but these guys need more first class cricket.

Its not a case of having "anything to fear" from countries, its a case of national sporting pride. The Lions tour is different as the home nations play separately and they only come round every 4 years as a "best of the best" tour, which it is an honour to be selected for. Can we honestly say that anyone other than Ed Joyce from Ireland and Scotland is anywhere near good enough to play for England? Anyway, if you look at the recently announced England one day squad, there are three south africans and an aussie in there. Compare the number of foreign born or raised players to the number of Welshmen to play for England and you'll see what I'm getting at. finally, if people are comparing the size of Zimbabwe and Ireland, then I can't figure how England, New Zealand and the West Indies could possibly compete with India's population of a billion. you only need eleven players on the pitch - population size doesn't matter! Secondly, The fact that cricket has to compete with four other major sports in Ireland (Rugby, Football, Hurling and Gaelic Football)is less of a problem the the sheer power of professional soccer is for England, or even the West Indies. And as for the West Indies as an example of a federal team, do you really want that degree of politics in our already opaque selection practices?

Posted by Chadders on (June 21, 2007, 8:40 GMT)

Glad to have provoked debate. :)

Now, I'm aware of the nationalist issues in Ireland and its sports - but if it can work in rugby (the British & Irish Lions, as Fat_Bulborbs says), then perhaps it can in cricket too? In rugby, winning a Lions cap is seen as good (if not better in some cases) than winning a national cap, but that's more to do with the specialness of Lions tours I suppose. But the only main sports that aren't cross-border in Ireland are football and athletics; The gaelic games, rugby and cricket are pan-nationalist.

I just think that Ireland has little to fear from England anymore. And certainly, getting a share of a federated nation's Test & ODI money would help Irish cricket would be a lot more consistent than the current deal it had to scrimp for for the upcoming triangular series. Not knocking the work the ICU are doing though, cos it's tough and getting such a deal was a real coup.

But prior to the World Cup, the Irish cricket fan was a rare bird; and I think more likely to be concerned with the make-up of the England & Wales team than their own, because that's where the better class of cricket is played. Many Irish people, many in my family, support Liverpool & Man United, and see no conflict with their sense of nationality for not supporting Shelbourne or Shamrock Rovers. And in any case, Ireland will have umpteen opportunities to better English sides in county cricket*. :D

Pratik - not sure the Windies are the best example of a federated sporting team right now, but it has of course worked in the past!

The thing is, we currently have the situation where Wales is part of the England team... and I don't think players like Simon Jones feels any the less Welsh for it. The trouble is, the predilection of many (myself included) to say "England" when we technically mean "England and Wales" about the cricket team. So long as we can agree on a name like "Britain & Ireland" that is representative of all, I don't really foresee an issue. When the World Cup excitement dies down and the hardcore Irish cricket fans need servicing, I think this is the best way. As the article says, those guys playing what was until recently regarded as an English sport are probably not too fussed about what people call them, so long as they feel Irish in their hearts.

Barry, on point 5, which I think is the main one directed at my proposal - the thing is, the cricket-watching and club scene (until recently) _was_ in Zimbabwe that enabled it to stand on it's own 2 feet as a Test Nation. Cricket is the nation's top sport. You could see it was a budding enterprise, if sadly not for shambolic politicking and mismanagement all round. Cricket in Ireland is going to be, at best, 5th on the list of priorities of a nation roughly a quarter of the size of Zimbabwe. As for a European team, well, maybe for the continent that would work - they do have a better sense of continental unity in general than us Brits. :) And let's face it, would the World Cup be enhanced or devalued if the better nations (Holland, Denmark) federated as a Europe team, and the number of dead-rubber matches were reduced? I just feel that self-confident nations have nothing to fear in open and free association with one another.

Now, I admit, these are just my own thoughts, (and obviously I have bundled Scotland into this without thinking those particular implications though - sorry!) and not of any players, other fans or cricket administrators, so I don't know if there's any appetite for such a change, beyond making things easy for half-Irish half-English mongrels like me.

Posted by Barry on (June 21, 2007, 6:38 GMT)

John Mankerel deserves a prize for the most number of ignorant comments in one post.

1 The United Kingdom also includes Northern Ireland, so one side playing as that would impinge on Ireland's cricket.

2 Scotland is not a province - try going to Glasgow and telling them that. It has it's own parliament and tax-raising rights, so it's about as much a province as New Zealand is to Australia.

3 The Republic of Ireland is a country, not Ireland. Might have escaped your notice, but there was 30 years of bloodshed over that fairly recently.

4 Ireland does play rugby as a whole country.

5 It is nothing like splitting up states in Australia. Doing that would be like dividing England up into counties. "If Australia play as one country then the United Kingdom should as well". Are you really that stupid? Why not just play a whole European team, go the whole distance. And merge Zimbabwe and South Africa while you're at it.

6 "The ICC resides in England" ... er ... no, it moved a while back. It's in Dubai.

7 "England is a province of the UK". Go for it. Wrong, but everything else you have said is utter ill-conceived and ignorant rubbish so why stop in your final sentence.

Posted by Pratik on (June 21, 2007, 5:45 GMT)

Chadders's idea seems good. Combining nations to put forward a single team has been done before. West Indies is a shining example of that.

Posted by john mackerel on (June 21, 2007, 4:09 GMT)

I believe england should be called 'the united kingdom' and play as England Scotland and Wales combined, since this would constitute a 'country'. Scotland is like a province to the UK , and thus should not be playing on its own. Ireland is a country in its own right and thus should be given full status to play on its own. The same should happen in rugby union.

England, Wales and Scotland should merge into one team for all international fixtures. otherwise it is like splitting up oz into the brumbies , nsw and the reds, thus if Australia play as one country then the United Kingdom should as well. just because the ICC resides in england doesn't mean those 'provinces' (since England is merely a province of the UK) should get special treatment.

Posted by Fat_Bulborbs on (June 21, 2007, 3:54 GMT)

Hey Chadders,

I like your idea, they could be like the West Indies of sorts, an amalgamation. Do you think they'd be issues with whether players want to play for a coalition? I guess its worked in Rugby Union with the British and Irish Lions.

I personally would love to see Ireland develop into its own independent cricketing nation. But right now, its future does look bleak. Wonder what the ICC are doing to help out...?

Posted by Nafi Karim on (June 20, 2007, 21:33 GMT)

To comment on Chadders comment, no because Ireland represents both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, plus England, Scotland, Ireland plays separately in most sports anyway. That is not the best of ideas.

Posted by Chadders on (June 20, 2007, 10:03 GMT)

This may be radical thinking, but speaking as a half-Irish Englishman, could we not combine the National sides in the British Isles and have a Test-playing team called Great Britain & Ireland, instead of England (and Wales)? Whilst simultaneously making Ireland & Scotland full professional 'counties' to help their development?

I realise the support on the ground for cricket in Ireland (and assumedly Scotland) is low compared to England, but what has fired the interest of cricket in Ireland is the success of the national side, as it is in England. With guys like Ed Joyce breaking through into the England side, and talents like Eoin Morgan fighting their way up too, the Irish cricket layman may get more interested in the game feeling part of a bigger Test-playing success.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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