An impossible balancing act
Andrew White is one of Ireland's World Cup stars who is still turning out for the national side. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to compete now that real life has taken over again following the Caribbean adventure. During Ireland's one-day international against South Africa, White spoke to Cricinfo about trying to be a professional in an amateur set-up.
"If it's not mentioned every day, it's mentioned every other day. I think the legacy will always be there after what we achieved," White said proudly while talking to Cricinfo during the delayed start to Ireland's match against South Africa at Stormont. "But we are very conscious it can't be a flash in the pan, which is why it's great to have India and South Africa here, we need to play more games at this level otherwise we will slip backwards."
The warning signs have already starting flashing since Ireland returned from the Caribbean. Their Friends Provident campaign ended without a win as they struggled to compete without many of the World Cup stars. White would like to see all touring teams warm up with games in Ireland and an annual fixture against England, who they played and ran close in the World Cup - "Bar those last ten overs of Paul Collingwood at his very best it could have been a very different story". But he understands the fixture congestion in international cricket makes it difficult.
Ireland's captain Trent Johnston has spoken regularly about the difficulties the side faces and White admits keeping the momentum going has been tough. "People go back to their full-time day jobs, it's been mentioned quite a bit by most of the players, but that's the reality of it," he said. "It leaves very little time to put into the cricket. We are meeting up the day before and it's very difficult to step up and turn it on. We are going to have to come up with ways and means around it, but that's for the hierarchy to try and sort out."
|We are going to have to come up with ways and means around it, but that's for the hierarchy to try and sort out|
The hierarchy in question is the Irish Cricket Union, headed by the chief executive, Warren Deutrom, and they have already begun looking into how to turn the game professional. However, it's not as simple as getting everyone to sign a piece of paper. Somehow the money has to be found and a regular supply of decent cricket scheduled to keep the players in form. The decision by Eoin Morgan to remain with Middlesex is completely understandable because he has a career to think about, while Jeremy Bray's recent newspaper comments highlight the problems.
Another idea suggested is a semi-professional set-up, which would give the ICU some control over the players. White, though, isn't convinced. "It could work for the younger members of the squad, but for the likes of Kyle [McCallan], myself who starts a full-time teaching job in September, and others who are in full-time jobs I can't see semi-professional working.
"The argument is that senior players like Kevin O'Brien should be going into full-time contracts because they are the ones at a stage in their life and career where they've finished their studies and aren't working. So why not invest money in players who are going to be the spine of the team for the next 10 years."
White will get a proper taste of the problems faced when he takes up a full-time teaching post, at the same school as team-mate McCallan, in September. "The principle of the school both Kyle and I are involved in has been extremely good in allowing us the time," he said. "But there's only a limit to that and how much time we can have. Kyle had to take a sabbatical for six months and if you kept asking for that they wouldn't be too chuffed."
But while the current system remains, the players will continue to try and, somehow, find a work-life balance. White says every player is "extremely proud" to play for Ireland and the decisions taken by Morgan and Boyd Rankin have not come easily. Club cricket is thriving around the country with participation reaching record levels, so the desire to play is clearly still climbing after the World Cup success.
"Club cricket has been played in Ireland for so long and hopefully it will continue to be so because the success of the national team encourages the club system, and the players, to keep going and play week after week. They are reporting that numbers have doubled, tripled and quadrupled.
"That's why I fail to understand when people like Michael Holding and Mike Atherton said we shouldn't have been at the World Cup, because we weren't good enough. I think it was a very narrow-minded insight into what it meant to the game back home. Our performances at the World Cup were truly inspirational from that point of view and the numbers coming into the game have been fantastic." However, what sort of future is waiting for those who make it to the top level is still uncertain.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo