ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

Bangladesh v Ireland, Group B, World Cup 2011, Mirpur

Ireland begin quest to prove they belong

Andrew Miller

February 24, 2011

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Ireland's Gary Wilson bats in the nets, Dhaka, February 24, 2011
Ireland exceeded expectations at the 2007 World Cup, but they face being blackballed from 2015 © Associated Press
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Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: Ireland

The chief executive of Cricket Ireland, Warren Deutrom, has told his players to focus solely on the challenge of competing on the world stage, starting with their opening fixture against Bangladesh on Friday, and let the administrators handle the wider issues surrounding Associates cricket, as the debate hots up about the proposed exclusion of non-Test teams from the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Friday's match in Dhaka will be Ireland's first in World Cup cricket since their extraordinary performance in the Caribbean four years ago, in which they eliminated Pakistan in a thrilling three-wicket victory in the group stage in Jamaica, and qualified for the Super Eights where Bangladesh also fell victim to their team of talented part-timers.

The stakes, however, are rather higher four years on. Not only do Ireland come into this tournament with a reputation to uphold, they also know that they might not be invited back if they fail to at least match their efforts in 2007. As a direct result of the early elimination of India and Pakistan in that tournament, the 2011 format was changed to aid the progression of the top teams to the quarter-finals, and in 2015, the proposal is to do away with the Associates entirely and revert to a ten-team round-robin format.

Such a format would not do much to reduce the number of matches played in the World Cup - there would be at least 48 games in 2015, compared to 49 in 2011 and 51 in 2007 - but it would be expected to reduce the number of mismatches that have been a feature of the last two tournaments. The challenge for Ireland in the coming weeks is to demonstrate that they are a cut above the likes of Canada and Kenya, whose current teams - like Bermuda four years ago - have so far proved to be hopelessly out of their depth at this level.

"I've said to the players, don't worry that you are playing for our ODI future," Deutrom told ESPNcricinfo's Switch Hit podcast. "They have to go out and play for themselves and be naturally self-confident. I think a lot of the comments that the players have made over the last couple of weeks have been quite positive. We're not saying, 'yes we'll make the quarter-finals', but we are saying we are capable of making the quarter-finals if we perform to our potential."

The other Associate nation in Group B, the Netherlands, showed the tournament organisers exactly what they could be missing out in 2015, when they ran England excruciatingly close in their opening fixture in Nagpur on Tuesday. Their total of 292 for 6 left England needing to complete their second-highest run-chase in World Cup history to avoid humiliation, which they eventually managed with an uncomfortable eight balls to spare.

"It would be slightly unreasonable to expect the Associate nations to beat the likes of England, India, Australia or South Africa at a canter," said Deutrom. "What people want and the game wants are competitive fixtures, and what the Dutch showed is that perhaps the first few games weren't reflective of the skill that exists in the ICC's High Performance Programme."

However, the future of that programme - which also includes two further teams with ODI status, Scotland and Afghanistan - hangs in the balance in light of the ICC's plans for 2015, for it was last year's qualification tournament for the 2011 event that provided the main focus for the senior Associate nations. A meeting in Dubai prior to the World Cup produced more questions than answers, but at least a final decision on how to decide which ten teams take part in four years' time has been deferred until the end of the tournament.

"I think that is the right decision," said Deutrom. "What it does is allow the ICC board to make a decision based on all the evidence, rather than no evidence whatsoever. We are pleased because if two or three teams do perform well during the group stages, that does provide an option to look favourably on qualification, and to see if the number of teams is quite right."

Since their heroics in 2007, Ireland have used a combination of government funding, membership schemes and major events (including an annual fixture against England) to build an infrastructure around their team, professionalise their senior players, and push their claims to be considered for full international status - an ambition that remains Deutrom's ultimate goal.

However, even the most basic levels of administrative competence have been lacking from all too many of the other top-level Associates. The 2003 World Cup semi-finalists, Kenya, required ICC intervention in 2005 following long-standing allegations of corruption, while the failure of USA, Canada and Bermuda to build on their appearances in ICC events - dating back in Canada's case to the 1979 World Cup, has long been a source of frustration.

"I don't think we [the Associates] do ourselves any favours sometimes," said Deutrom. "With fewer human and economical resources, it's difficult for us all to be consistent at any one time, but if you look at the number of competitive ODI teams, it's more than just 10.

"An associate team has progressed at the last two 50-over World Cups, to the semi-finals and Super Eights respectively. Last year Ireland and Netherlands beat full-member opposition, and the current rankings reflect the fact that Ireland is tenth above Test opposition [Zimbabwe]. We face some major questions about where we go from here, but we certainly have no desire for the story to end here."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 27 
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Posted by Mfaruque on (February 25, 2011, 19:36 GMT)

I don't think ICC should just decide now for 10 teams. They should wait 1 to 2 years before deciding because there might be more than 10 teams that quaify to be in the WC. So far from what I seen I have to say all of group B should be in the WC. And from Group A, Australia, New Zeland, Srilanka and Pakistan definitely deserves to be in the WC. So that already makes it into 11 teams that should be in the WC, so to me its too early to say that there should be only 10 teams in 2015. Also Zimbabwe is pretty decent. And if you see Zimbabwe showing progress in 2 years along with all the teams in group B, thats 12 teams that should qualify for the WC in 2015.

Posted by Ron on (February 25, 2011, 18:33 GMT)

Ireland gave B'desh a scare today and have beaten them a few times before. IMHO Ireland deserves a place in any International tournament. BTW, isn't the match ref going to deal with Asraful's over celebrations?

Posted by kris on (February 25, 2011, 17:21 GMT)

Ireland should be given test cricket playing rights. What Bangladesh has done in 10 years since getting test status? Ireland will do a better job in 10 years for sure.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 25, 2011, 17:06 GMT)

i think u got ur ans streetblader.

Posted by Mohammed Mujtaba on (February 25, 2011, 16:36 GMT)

It seems cricket is going to become distinct if the ICC goes on like this. FIFA increased the number of teams from 24 to 32 in the World Cup of Soccer to give more countries from other continents to participate in the tournament and so that people of more countries have their interest in it. Going down from 14 to 10 a very disappointing step. You need to bring in the excitement and the involvement of the cricket loving fans. It's not just no more a cricket club's gentlemen's meeting any more. It's world wide game. And it has to become more global it is to survive. Changing format is like giving up your self respect. Should FIFA think about making the game 20mins quarters to make it exciting? Still if we are thinking about raising the image of cricket then cutting down from 14 to 10 is never going to help it. Thank you.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 25, 2011, 14:57 GMT)

it's a shame sales of games in australia that include sri lanka who is ranked higher than the australians draw poor sales, but teams like bangladesh or zimbabwe i believe maybe for example, instead of playing at scg, play at north sydney oval, instead of mcg play at junction oval and so on and maybe reduce the sponsors for those matches so there isn't a lot money lost for these matches. i know it's way out but still it's better than watching games 1/10 full capacity. oh yeah and keep up the momentum ireland!

Posted by VISHNU on (February 25, 2011, 13:29 GMT)

you r playing a good brand of cricket guys. u can match Bangladesh,ZIM,KENYA,DUTCH and even IND,AUS,ENG,NZ,WI,PAK,SRI. so keep going.win two three matches and show the ICC that u r worth of going into the 2015 grand event.

Posted by Muthuvel on (February 25, 2011, 13:16 GMT)

@Somya Harsh, India and pak did not have as extended a run of poor form as BD. BD have played far too many games at international level to be poor still. SL was astonishingly quick in its accent in the game. So cant be compared to BD.

And Zim have had some world class players at the same time, Andy F, Heath Streak,A Cambell to name a few, they were a competitive side, their problem is unique, political, and hopefully one that can be reversed. BD seems to have problems similar to India in its initial stages but without the apparent batting talent.

Posted by Cricinfouser on (February 25, 2011, 11:36 GMT)

Way to go Ireland. My suggestion to ICC. Let there be only10 team but the last to team in ODI ranking should play qualifier against the Associates. If they finish in top two they should allowed to play

Posted by Jay on (February 25, 2011, 10:50 GMT)

The 10-team tournament would be apt. However, only 4-5 teams should get direct entry. Other 5-6 teams must play qualifiers to be here. That will surely do some favour to Associates as well.

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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