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Ireland still begging for fixtures - Joyce

Andrew McGlashan

July 4, 2013

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Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce launch the RSA Challenge which will be played against England, Lord's, July 3, 2013
Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce launch the RSA Challenge which will be played on September 3 against England and be another chance for Ireland to impress © Cricket Ireland
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Stuck between a rock and a hard place could be an apt way to describe Ireland cricket at the moment. They are desperate to move up the ICC ladder, but joining the elite of world cricket can often feel a harder job that breaking into Fort Knox.

There remains intense frustration within Ireland at the pace that they are able to further their ambitions due to the limited exposure they receive against Full Member nations, who are content to play among themselves in some largely context-less ODI series that fill up the global calendar.

Some players, such as the vocal Trent Johnston, are not afraid to suggest it is because teams are "scared" of losing to Ireland, while others take a more measured approach, remaining grateful for what Ireland have and being cautious not to alienate those who do provide the valuable experiences that the team requires.

Along with Johnston, Ed Joyce is an elder statesman of Irish cricket - so much so that he left once before returning after dropping off the England radar - and he admitted that living off "crumbs" from other international tours left Ireland "begging" for more opportunities. Joyce believes they have more than proved their worth at the top level.

"We are still in the situation where we are almost begging for fixtures, which is obviously not ideal because we feel as a competitive side we have gone past that," Joyce told ESPNcricinfo at the launch of the RSA Challenge match against England, which will be held on September 3 at Malahide.

"It is frustrating that we aren't getting more fixtures but I wouldn't want to point fingers. We are simultaneously grateful for teams coming to play against us, but slightly frustrated that more teams don't. We still live off the crumbs of the teams touring England and that's the way it always has been.

"I realise why the big teams play each other a lot, there are huge financial incentives which they perhaps don't see with us, so it's about us getting in a position where we can be involved in the 'club', so to speak, and then hopefully other teams like Scotland, Netherlands, Afghanistan can do the same thing because there are a lot of good cricketer outside of the Test playing nations."

What adds to the angst and annoyance is that Ireland are in fine fettle. They could have beaten Pakistan in the two-ODI series that preceded the Champions Trophy, competed strongly against Australia A in Belfast, are well clear at the top of the Intercontinental Cup and also lead the World Cricket League one-day table.

The ODIs against Pakistan were particularly noteworthy, concluding in a tie and a last-ditch win for Pakistan after Ireland controlled both matches for significant periods. It is the type of form they will need to carry into the England game later in the summer to ensure that Ireland's on-field performances continue to make strong statements.

Ireland had hoped to arrange a series against Bangladesh but that has fallen through, meaning the England game is now their one remaining match against a Full Member in their season.


Ed Joyce steps out and hits over cow corner, Ireland v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Dublin, May 26, 2013
Ed Joyce hit a hundred during Ireland's impressive performances against Pakistan in May © AFP
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"The two games against Pakistan showed that we have made great strides. Who would have said four or five years ago that we'd be disappointed not to have beaten Pakistan?" Joyce said. "We were hopeful of getting Bangladesh over for some matches but they have pulled out of that for various reasons. It is frustrating but we realise where we are.

"We need to be playing as many of the big sides as we can, but we understand that it is very difficult for them to fit us into an already packed schedule, which we are trying to get around by getting into the FTP in years to come.

"The game against England has a dual purpose - to keep showing how we have improved and also if we play well it will create interest in the game. When Ireland beat England at the last World Cup and Pakistan the one before, there was a huge uptake in membership at clubs. I think there is now a club in every county in Ireland - all 32 - which certainl hasn't been the case for many years."

Evolving domestic cricket in Ireland is crucial to the country's ambitions. An inter-provincial tournament has been re-launched to try and improve the standards for those who do not play county cricket and ultimately there is a plan to launch a first-class competition so that players can remain in Ireland with a view of building a Test side.

The recent debut of Boyd Rankin in England's Twenty20 against New Zealand has rubber-stamped another player slipping from Ireland's grasp - even if Rankin had long-since made his intentions clear - although a recent tweak to the ICC regulations means that he would now need only two years to re-qualify for Ireland rather than the four that Joyce had to go through.

"I think it's a fairer rule, because there's no real option for the likes of Boyd," Joyce said. "I would like to think Boyd and Eoin Morgan's generation will be the last who feel they have to make that decision so they can play at the highest level. Boyd is desperate to play Test cricket, and fair play to him, we wish him well.

"Now the likes of George Dockrell, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson and James Shannon, they have more of a chance to play at a higher level with Ireland. But until we get to a stage where we are regularly playing against top nations - and that will only happen when we attain some higher membership status, either Test status or increased ODI status - I think you might have the odd player who feels they have to make that move to further their own ambitions.

"Hopefully the ICC will see that Ireland are improving and are fulfilling all the criteria they want of us to play more teams. The only thing we can do is put in performances against top sides to show what we can do and hope the powers that be listen to our raving and ranting."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (July 7, 2013, 18:35 GMT)

It would be very intresting to see if they could in the foreseeable future arrange a short series against the West Indies,regardless of where it is played.Guess it would have to be slotted in at the back end of the home schedule or an international tour.

Posted by siddhartha87 on (July 5, 2013, 15:26 GMT)

Ireland team is really promising. I think they are as good as Zimbabwe if not better. England board should really help them. They should play 2 series every year(home and away) against them. Lack quality cricket may give rise to Kenya part 2. It's really shame that Bangladesh are refusing to play against them. ICC should make fixtures in way that team like Ireland gets to play 25 ODI plus 10-12 T20 I s per year. That will be really helpful.They are definitely going to be 11th test playing nation.So ICC should start taking steps towards it.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 14:04 GMT)

All I ask is the chance for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to prove they are better than Ireland in tests :-)

I think the lack of ODI and 20:20's is more of an issue - this is something easily resolved by the ICC

Posted by CricketChat on (July 5, 2013, 13:00 GMT)

Ireland, Afghanistan should get at least ODI and T20 status. They are not far behind Zim, Bang in these formats. Increased exposure can only be good for them and if that happens, they can be competitive against higher ranked teams in about 4/5 yrs from now.

Posted by android_user on (July 5, 2013, 12:19 GMT)

Yes, idea of adding them along with test playing nation is good for both. Lot of bench strength is getting wasted and is also not allowing other teams to succeed...

Posted by EnglishCricket on (July 5, 2013, 10:15 GMT)

Good article. Its amazing teams like Pakistan and England are happily and willing to play Ireland but the weaker teams Bangladesh and Zimbabwe being offered a series by Ireland but immediately refusing. This is totally unacceptable and ICC must do something about this and also help Ireland achieve their ambitions because they deserve it. They are too good for this 'associate' level and need a new challenge. Yes they will struggle a bit at the elite level but so are a lot of the full members. All the other sports are spreading to more nations just look at Tennis and how they are now taking it to Asia and the current success of Wimbledon. What is Cricket doing to help these associate teams? Ireland really by now should be playing at least 12 ODIs a year against full members along with their ODI games against associates so they will be prepared for the World Cup. Love to see a tri series between Ireland, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe which is already successful in the Caribbean as of now.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 8:15 GMT)

I think its high time to bring back the Tri-nation series. So for example if Pakistan and India are playing a series i.e 3 Tests, 5 ODis and 3 T20. Instead of having 5 ODis make it a Tri-nation series with one Associate as the third country. So in a Pak vs Ind series Afghanistan could be the third associate. England can add Scotland, Ireland, Holland in their home matches, Australia can add US or Canada for their home series. Ideally you would want to have an associate of the same region but that should not become a rule, associates from other regions should also be given a chance. This way everyone wins, the associates get to face 2 Test playing nations and gather valuable experience and the Test playing nations can try out their bench strength. the 4 or 5 players who miss out every time and be mere spectators also get to showcase their credentials.

Posted by Chris_P on (July 5, 2013, 5:05 GMT)

Come on ICC. In Ireland we have infrastructure, a high standard, facilities, & they can play in the county competitions. All in all far more than some current test playing nations. A rule relaxing player returns when tests status is achieved short be fast tracked. We need to keep this progress going.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2013, 21:54 GMT)

Mr.Colm Mooney: Bangladesh beat ireland in last ball or with 2 wickets,that was happened in t20 matches,Most of the t20 matches' result produce in last over.How many times Ireland beat bangladesh??? Plz take a look--ODI Stats: In BD, BD won 4 matches,IRE-0,In Ireland,Ireland-1,BD-1,In Neutral Venue,Ire-1 (world cup),BD-0. /// T20 Stats: In BD, BD-0,Ire-0, In Ire, BD-3,Ire-0, in neautral venue,BD-0,Ire-1 (in world cup).Now tell me,who is better?? I dont understand why people compare with Ireland?? BD is far better than Ireland. Ireland only played good cricket against Pak.BD already Beat almost every team in recent times.Draw with SL (1-1),Win over WI (3-2),White washed NZ (4-0),Runners up in Asia Cup.How many times IRE produced this type of results in recent times??? Cricinfo plz publish ....

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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