Ireland aim for 'embarrassing' case
Ireland's push for greater global recognition reaches another important landmark next week when they host England in front of what will be a record crowd at the new stadium at Malahide. The ODI is on course to be a 10,000 sell-out and, while the available seating at the new venue is one reason for the record figure, there is also a feeling that cricket in Ireland has hit a new peak this year.
The national side came very close to beating Pakistan in a two-match ODI series, while they continue to qualify for all the global tournaments put in front of them. The Inter Provincial three-day tournament has also been launched and Cricket Ireland's aim is to earn first-class status for that competition by 2015 in their pursuit of being a Test nation by 2020.
However, opportunities against Full Member teams remain rare and have to be fought for around the politicking tables of world cricket, but Cricket Ireland are determined to make the game so successful in the country that it becomes "embarrassing" for other nations not to play them more often.
"The perception of Ireland cricket continues to be one that is fairly low within the Full Member world due to the opportunities spurned by others to play us," Warren Deutrom, the Cricket Ireland CEO, told ESPNcricinfo. "But that doesn't stop us doing what we can; investing in our senior squads, investing in our facilities, getting public and private funding, and growing the sport where we can attract these big matches.
"Basically, it's about building the argument until it's one that is too embarrassing to ignore regarding how good we are becoming. We have few and far opportunities against Full Members, but look at what we do when they come along. People may still say we don't expect Ireland to win these games, we expect them to be competitive. Well, I'd say we are extremely competitive when we get the chance."
Phil Simmons, Ireland's coach, said that there is now a very different mindset within the team compared to a few years ago. "The way that we played against Pakistan showed we are learning every time we go out. We should have won the second match. We are learning how to win games. Since the 2011 World Cup, we've had that mentality. We go in to win the game and not just compete."
Deutrom was keen to stress that the England fixture on September 3 was not the "be-all and end-all" for Irish cricket. He is well aware that pinning all ambitions on one fixture every two years does not do Ireland any favours, and also the weather does not have a record of being especially fair to this fixture, but acknowledges that it does carry extra weight given England's recent Ashes success and the fact it will be covered by Sky TV.
"Above everything else it's about the perception of Irish cricket," he said. "Having 10,000 in an Irish cricket ground against England, in front of TV cameras, with the President of Ireland and chief executive of ICC, says everything that we in Cricket Ireland have been trying to drive home."
Neither is Deutrom going to be drawn into a debate over the strength of the England side that is coming over. A number of key figures - Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Kevin Pietersen - will not be making the trip to Dublin. So, as in 2011, it will be an experimental England side that is captained by Eoin Morgan, who was also the captain for the 2011 one-off encounter. This time there is also the presence of Boyd Rankin, the former Ireland quick who played against England in the 2011 fixture, to stir the emotions of the locals.
"The under-strength team still won last time," Deutrom said, referring to England's narrow 11-run success in a rain-curtailed match. "It's not as though we are hammering whoever they send over. It's a full England team that is being sent. It is at the ECB's risk that the team does not win, then they have to face the potential fall-out of that.
"If I was the ECB, I'd say whichever team we have sent over since 2006 has won. Ironically, the game we did beat them in, at the World Cup, was when they played most of their big names. We need to beat whatever they send over to justify."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo