Ponting calls on ICC to halt Ireland exodus
Ahead of Australia's tour opener in Dublin, Ricky Ponting has called on the ICC to ensure that Ireland, as a developing cricket nation, cease to suffer by having promising players lured away from Irish cricket by lucrative contracts and the promise of better opportunities to play international cricket overseas.
"I'm very sympathetic to countries like Ireland that potentially could keep losing their better players. It's something that shouldn't happen I feel," Ponting said. "I think the ICC should be worried about that as far as trying to develop countries like Ireland and having some of their best young players poached, even in county cricket."
As a leading Associate nation, Ireland's player drain has received exposure in recent times after Eoin Morgan and Ed Joyce's move to England. Though Joyce has since made clear his intention to return to Ireland once more ahead of the 2011 World Cup, Morgan has cemented a spot in England's middle order in limited-overs cricket and made a start to his Test career with a debut against Bangladesh at Lord's last month.
England also appear to have an eye on Boyd Rankin, who plays county cricket for Warwickshire and was included in the ECB's enhanced England Performance Programme, and 17-year-old spinner George Dockrell's promising performances at the World Twenty20 will also surely have registered him on England's radar.
"If the ICC look at that and are fair dinkum about Ireland continuing to grow as a nation and maybe one day being a Test-playing nation they can't afford to have their better players going off at a young age. The counties are jumping on 17, 18-year-old kids who have maybe had a good tournament or a few good games here or there. They offer them some decent money and away they go."
Ireland have attempted to stem the player drain by professionalising their structures, and in January six players were given full-time central contracts while county-based players were offered additional financial support. They have also made their ambition to play Test cricket clear, but there are fears that unless Full Member status is granted soon, talented players will continue to drift away from Irish cricket.
"You can understand that as far as the players are concerned, but I think the ICC have to step in and do their best to ensure the young Irish kids that are coming along get a chance to play for their country first and foremost," Ponting added.