Is it just me or did it feel strange to see England play in an international fixture against its neighbour Ireland and be lead by an Irishman who ended up being the man of the match? Further to the point, did it also feel strange to see the lead bowler for the English against the Irish be a young fast bowler born in Londonderry?
I have long joked that playing England in cricket is often like playing the League of Nations given the number of South Africans, principally, who have sworn allegiance to the Crown to play cricket. The events of the other evening though stretch the joke to its breaking point.
I make no criticism of Eoin Morgan, the erstwhile English captain, and Boyd Rankin: simply they have put their respective careers first and have pledged their allegiance to England to play cricket on a global scale. I have no doubt both of them would prefer the opportunity to play a series against Australia or India instead of Ireland’s next opponents in Scotland, Netherlands and Papua New Guinea. Further I have no doubt they would like at some point to at least have the prospect of playing test match cricket.
The travesty of this scenario is borne out of the inability of the administrators of the game to act against such conduct either by disallowing such moves OR by ensuring that teams like Ireland have more cricket against those in the top flight of the game.
I commented about the Australia v Scotland game that that game should not have had international status given the lack of competition given to Australia by the Scots and, then by extension, that until Scotland play more (not less) international cricket against the top flight they are never going to improve.
For Ireland they are not in a dissimilar position. Indeed their position is worse because they have players that they are developing at home who are obviously capable of playing test cricket but are having to move to be able to so play.
The travesty that is the treatment of Irish cricket by the administrators only gets worse when one considers that Ireland has shown that it is more than capable of competing at the top of the game internationally given its previous form at, mainly, World Cups. Consider this statistic: Ireland has played in 38 one day international fixtures against test playing nations and has won 4 of them, lost 29, tied 3 and had 2 no results. The last 3 teams to gain test playing status, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh had had the following records in one day internationals before they played a test match:
Sri Lanka: 6 games, 1 win, 4 losses, 1 no result
Zimbabwe: 20 games, 2 wins, 18 losses
Bangladesh: 41 games, 3 wins, 38 losses
The foregoing raises this question: if that form was good enough for those teams to gain admission into the “top flight” why then are the administrators not seeking to progress Ireland’s admission to test match cricket, if only keep Ireland’s home grown players playing for it?
Perhaps the difference between Ireland and those more recently allowed into the “big show” of cricket is player base and likely crowd numbers and both are reasonable arguments. It do not know they answer to that question save that I can not believe for one moment that Zimbabwean cricket has greater claims to player depth and crowd than Irish cricket.
It is fair to say though that whilst Ireland remains out of test match cricket, cricket in that country will remain the punchline of a bad joke like that in the title to this post and nothing more whilst at the same time its players will continue to pledge their allegiance to the Crown and play for England for the opportunity that brings. That, for mine, is just a crying shame.