VIEWPOINT – The Irish conundrum

  The International Cricket Council (ICC) are always trying hard to make us believe that they are constantly striving hard to develop the game, and spread it to all the corners of the world. They take pride in announcing development programs, which, we would all like to believe, are actually for the betterment of the lower-rung nations. But the truth is, the thinking of the ICC remains to be myopic and hypocritical; because the issue of Irish players being poached by big bully England is being frowned upon by almost everyone who loves the game, except the ones who claim to love it, as in reality all they care for is the moolah.

  The clamour for Test status for the spirited Irishmen has gained momentum again, following Boyd Rankin’s decision to pursue only county cricket, in the hope of being selected by England for Tests. Rankin, a tall fast bowler, was a vital part in Ireland’s rise in the past five years. But now, thanks to an archaic rule that absurdly still considers Ireland as one of the counties; Rankin has followed in the footsteps of Eoin Morgan and Ed Joyce, into the English camp.

  While Morgan is very much a part of England’s limited-overs plans, Joyce wasted four years (another absurd rule), after England forgot about him, and he returned to his native team in 2011. Imagine the pangs of betrayal that an Irish fan will feel, when Kevin O’Brien, destroyer of England in the famous World Cup game too decides to consider being poached by the unsatisfied Englishmen.

ImageIrish cricket : running out of support? (source – ecb.co.uk)

  While I have always wanted Ireland to be a Test nation as soon as possible, I surely know that it will take  some time coming. Ireland do not have a proper multi-day domestic tournament, nor do they as yet, have a stadium which can be packed to capacity for a Test match. But there are other factors which might be strangulating Ireland’s desire to be a Test nation in the near future. The general belief is that, India and England are the nations which do not quite like the idea of a eleventh Test nation.

  For England, of course, it will be the end of their poaching spree; while for power-crazy India, it will mean a possible reduction of the Asian bloc. And as we know, the ICC just cannot oppose India, no matter how poor India play, and no matter how genuinely the ICC is concerned for the game’s well being. With all respect to Bangladesh, they certainly did not deserve to be given Test status in 2000, on the back of a solitary one-day win against Pakistan in an inconsequential World Cup game.

  The results are there to see, even eleven years later, the Tigers are succumbing to innings defeat after innings defeat, although the sheer passion for the game in Bangladesh is certainly a thing to applaud. By contrast, Ireland have been consistent in associate competitions, have beaten four Test teams already, and have players who display their wares on the county circuit. If anyone believes that Bangladesh was made a full member just to strengthen the Asian bloc, then he has reason enough to justify that. India did play a role in helping Bangladesh get full status, but their apathy towards them is for all to see, with India not even agreeing to host their eastern neighbours even once for a Test series. Also, ICC’s indifferent attitude was seen in the way they handled Kenya, even after the Africans actually made it to a World Cup semifinal nine years back. And look at where Kenya is today, sadly. 

  I am not saying that Ireland should be made a full member right away, but there needs to be a plan in view. Three day fixtures against A teams of Test nations can be one of the ways forward for Irish cricket. However, sadly the ICC and the ECB are actually stunting the growth of Irish cricket, and are taking several backward steps by allowing the English side to scoop off the cream of Ireland’s best talent. This is downright cruel, and painful for Ireland and their bunch of spunky, spirited and passionate players and fans alike. The need of the hour is, that this unfair rule should be scrapped forever, because it is only making the full members stronger, and the associates weaker, and because it is completely in contrast with what is needed from the ICC; although it indeed in line with their usual hypocritical attitude.

  Rankin’s Irish retirement has naturally had the Irish Board fuming, and it has demanded a fast-track road to full status, or at least provisional full status. But no one is listening, and unless some common sense and morality is drilled into the ICC bigwigs, who congregate in 5 star hotels now and then to discuss ‘pertinent  issues (which usually is how-to-please-India)’; nothing will change.

  Till then, let us enjoy and admire the spirit of the Irishmen in the few opportunities they get, and let us just hope and pray that they do not go the Kenya way. 

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