Ireland calls for Test status to 'halt exodus'
Richard Holdsworth, Cricket Ireland's performance director, said Ireland had attempted to secure fast bowler Boyd Rankin's services but could not match up against the "lure" of Test cricket. Reacting to Rankin's retirement as an Ireland player, Holdsworth said only "an accelerated pathway" towards the benefits afforded to Test countries would help Ireland "halt the exodus" to England, for whom it would otherwise be a "breeding ground".
On Wednesday, Rankin announced his retirement from international cricket at the end of the year as he bids to step up to the Test level via English county cricket. Rankin would be the third leading Irish player to leave Ireland for England, following Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan.
"Cricket Ireland offered Boyd a significantly improved contract to remain an Irish international cricketer but unfortunately we were unable to compete with the lure of Test Cricket and the financial rewards of being a potential England cricketer," Holdsworth said. "This further loss only strengthens our aim of becoming a Full Member of ICC and ultimately a Test-playing country.
"This will be the third Irish player we have lost to the England cause in just six years, notwithstanding Ed Joyce's return. It is our strong view that we must be given the opportunity very soon to finance a full-time international programme and centrally contract all our players in order to halt this exodus."
Ireland, whose performance has stood out among the non-Test playing countries, cannot just be a "breeding ground" for England, Holdsworth said. "We were very grateful for ICC's recent boost to our funding to permit us to implement a domestic first class structure in 2013 and play more international fixtures against the Full Members.
"However it is becoming increasingly obvious that only an accelerated pathway towards the financial benefits and opportunities afforded to the Full Members will allow us to keep hold of our home-grown developed players. The ICC has an excellent ambition to ensure that there are more competitive nations on the world stage; however, this will not be realised if its next best non-Test nation is merely a breeding ground for the England team."
Ireland coach Phil Simmons said Rankin's decision to leave was a "damaging blow", but he was confident of other Ireland players stepping successfully into Rankin's role. He also credited Rankin for being a driving force behind the team's recent successes.
"Boyd has been a superb strike bowler for us, particularly in World Cups and qualifying tournaments. The new ball partnership he forged with Trent Johnston has been one of the main reasons for our success since 2007," Simmons said. "His extra pace and the lift he generates with his height made him a very dangerous proposition.
"It's obviously a very damaging blow for Ireland, but we've lost players before and bounced back and I'm sure this time will be no exception. His absence will create opportunities for others and I'm certain they will grasp them."
Rankin has taken 110 wickets for Ireland since debuting as a teenager in 2003, with a total of 60 wickets in ODIs and Twenty20 internationals. At the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, he was Ireland's leading wicket-taker, his scalps including those of Younis Khan, Michael Vaughan, Ed Joyce, Stephen Fleming, Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers.
Rankin will now pursue cricket with English county Warwickshire, with whom he has signed a new three-year deal.