July 4, 2012

Ireland cricket

Has England benefitted Ireland?

Ajay Jonathan Gnanam
Eoin Morgan made a fluent 59 from 65 balls, Ireland v England, only ODI, Clontarf, August 25, 2011
The threat of Irish players playing for England has always been serious, but these were choices made by the players themselves  © Getty Images
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Have England helped or hindered the development of Irish Cricket? It is possible to argue that England have in fact damaged Irish cricket; England calling up the likes of Eoin Morgan has caused a significant talent drain in the Irish player pool. However, it is also possible to argue that England have in fact helped Ireland more than damaged them; the inclusion of Ireland players in the county circuit has helped them reach a much higher level than what they would have playing in Ireland's current club format.

Do the positives outweigh the negatives? The most significant problem with the England connection, as mentioned earlier, is the talent drain. The loss of Ed Joyce in 2005 and Morgan in 2009 have created obvious problems in Ireland's batting line-up. Ireland, while proving themselves to be a constantly progressing team, have had one annoying hurdle that they have never fully overcome: batting collapses. And the loss of these two players has not helped.

Although Ed Joyce did return to the side in 2011, one can't deny how much stronger the batting line-up would have been with Morgan in it as well. In an ODI against Pakistan in May 2011, Ireland went from 44 for 1 to 96 all out by the end of the 20th over - a prime example of their proneness to collapses.

Though these have been the only two players to have left Ireland to play for their neighbours, the threat doesn't end there. Pace bowler Boyd Rankin, who played for the England Lions, came very close to being selected to play for England, while there is the threat of losing left-arm spinner George Dockrell and big-hitting opener Paul Stirling to England's ranks.

Another smaller problem (though this should be viewed more as a lack of support than a problem) is the want of games against England. Ireland have never played a full series against England (by full, I mean at least three ODIs and a T20I or two) despite their progress. The two countries usually only clash in a one-off game once every year or so. To be fair, England do have a very full international schedule, as often pointed out quite recently, and incorporating Ireland into that schedule could make a very tough roster for their players even more difficult to deal with.

Regardless of the problems, though, there's also the support proffered. The inclusion of Ireland's players on the county circuit has done wonders; the current players in county cricket (Porterfield, Joyce, Stirling, Niall and Kevin O'Brien, Wilson, Rankin, Dockrell) are usually the most consistent, best performers in the national team. While this is also due to talent, the exposure they have on the county circuit can't even be compared to that on offer in Irish domestic cricket (which Cricket Ireland is working on fixing).

And even more Irish players are being given an opportunity. A few weeks ago, John Mooney was permitted to join the Sussex second XI for a three week trial period, and though he couldn't finish the trial because of personal reasons, he was given the assurance that he could try-out again at a later date.

Also, the inclusion of the England-born Tim Murtagh in the Ireland side further presents the help Ireland get from England. Murtagh, a well-respected seamer who plays for Middlesex, has hasn't been able to make the England squad due to their already well-endowed pace attack. He qualified for Ireland in February (through his Irish grandparents).

Apart from the county support England, in general, does support the development of cricket in Ireland. The ECB has been a supporter of Ireland's claim for Test status. Overall, England does in fact help Irish Cricket more than it hinders it. The problems caused by the threat of Irish players playing for England has always been serious, however these were choices made by the players themselves and have never been forced upon them by England.

Joyce left to play for England when Irish cricket still hadn't made a name for itself (Ireland only played their first ODI in 2006) and even Morgan had begun working towards playing for England before Ireland's famous St Patrick's Day victory against Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup. And since, with the exception of Rankin, Ireland players like Kevin O'Brien and Stirling have shown a reluctance to answer England's call - a giant step since, at the end of the day, it is for the player to choose who he wants to play for.

As for playing with more regularity against Ireland, with their already jam-packed international calendar, this would be a very tough demand for England to fulfil until the day Ireland receive Test status. To overcome this in the short term, they could consider sending the England Lions on tour to Ireland every year (or vice versa). This would provide some very competitive cricket for both sides, helping Ireland gain more quality exposure while also helping England's young players develop.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Luka on (October 10, 2012, 4:31 GMT)

You are so amazingly taelnted and creative! I look forward to reading your blog almost daily just to see what new ideas you have come up with. I LOVE the photos you have taken of my Maxwell. You seem to capture his little personality in every picture you take! Thank you!!!

Posted by Mihir Mangaonkar on (July 30, 2012, 11:33 GMT)

Well ICC should itself take step like before 2007 WC they had associate Tri Series with Zimbabwe,Canada,Bermuda.. Let Bangladesh and Ireland Afghanistan play in Tri Series in UAE. South Africa playing a practice games after every test match. totally Useless, South Africa A is touring IReland. teams like India West Indies playing 5ODI make Odi meaning less its better to keep interest in game till final match of triseries

Posted by Kevin James on (July 16, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

@Anonymous That implies that the players have an alternative....which you're right they do..... Test cricket for England or for nobody. Great choice. English fans have proven time and time again that they are happy for selectors to import talent rather than nurture it. Probably the reason why their best players are all foreirn born and cricket rared.

Posted by Anonymous on (July 9, 2012, 18:50 GMT)

Very well written article which makes the key points well. Thanks for debunking the myth that Irish players are 'poached' by England. As you rightly state, it is the players who make the choice.

Posted by The_ReverseDoosra_K on (July 8, 2012, 17:02 GMT)

@Andrew - Most of the players are Irish born. Though they are few imports but it is not ridiculous like the Dutch, Canada etc. And also, if England have Trott, Kieswetter, Pietersen, Dernbach, why do we compare them with the Ozzies who also rely on homegrown talent?

If teams like Ireland and Afghanistan fade away it would be ICC's fault.

Posted by Kevin James on (July 7, 2012, 9:53 GMT)

ible. This is further compounded by the complete lack of action taken by the ICC on this subject. They are more than happy to allow full members to steal the best of the rest once this means that developing teams can not continue to do so and ultimately knock on the door looking for a slice of the elitist pie that is served to everyone at the full member table. If I was an upcoming player within the English county system, I would be very disheartened as the selection attitude suggests that there is no confidence in the development system despite the numbers playing and money being spent. And before anyone says that the Irish players play county cricket and benefit from that....Yes they do, but they could apply their trade in any first class structure. The difference being that other full members would not look upon this as another player to possibly select, beginning the 4 year countdown once they land in the country. It is nothing short of a disgrace.

Posted by Rayner on (July 6, 2012, 15:45 GMT)

We could solve a few problems here, in England we always have 2 teams tour us during the summer, with two ODI series as part of that. Why don't the ECB merge the two ODI series and invite Ireland to join in and make it a quadrangular series? then we could include Ireland to help them become stronger and push for test status and the ECB would boost their coffers beacuse there would be more ODIs played than there would in 2 bilateral series and the wealth could be spread a bit more between grounds?

Posted by raymond hart on (July 6, 2012, 15:04 GMT)

It would seem an expansion of the county by having one or more teams from Ireland, but a United Ireland basis, plus the Netherlands and maybe Denmark and Scotland and opportunities other nations and counties promotion and relegation might be a way forward and why not a knock out competiton.

Posted by delboy on (July 6, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

The Irish could merge with the West Indies or Phil Simmon's Trinidad, the inherit Bravo(s), Pollard, Ganga(s), Cooper, Ramdin, Simmons etc..

Posted by Opening Bat on (July 6, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

I don't think you'll find Scotland will go down the Dutch route (which is ridiculous!) or even lesser Irish route with'overseas' players - they are doing perfectly well as they are! Incidentally, there are now five Scots either with county contracts or on trials.

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