The Irish cricket team have enjoyed yet another highly publicised campaign in the recent Cricket World Cup, bowing out following a defeat to India. Yet how is this great roar of public support translating onto a grass root level for the sport
Over the years Ireland has been very well represented when it comes to international sports, from our gold winning Olympians to our grand slam winning rugby heroes. In the past decade however, Ireland now has a team that is not only representing us internationally, but also competing at the top level and beating world-class opposition. That team is our national cricket team.
The Irish Cricket team came to the attention of the Irish public way back in 2007 when we beat the Pakistani National team on St Patrick’s Day. That day the Irish team was made up of mostly amateur players and was a massive underdog against the 1992 world cup winners. Despite the odds stacked against them, the Irish team rose to the task beating the Pakistanis. A loss that was so unexpected and so great that protests took place on the streets of Pakistan in reaction to it. It gave the Irish Cricket team a place on the front and back page of every newspaper, a place usually reserved for the likes of Roy Keane and Brian O’Driscoll. It was an incredibly defining moment in the history of cricket in Ireland, it was the first time that the Irish team had ever beaten a test nation.
In the 2011 World Cup, Ireland scored an impressive win over the English Cricket Team that included a world record for Irishman Niall O’Brien. He scored a century from 50 balls, the fastest test century ever scored at the Cricket World Cup. This year’s world cup saw more success as Ireland beat two more test nations, Zimbabwe and the West Indies. A loss to Pakistan meant that Ireland missed out on the Quarter Final stages. When Ireland were knocked out, the Journal.ie ran it as their top story and even sent out a news notification to people that have their app downloaded, a feature they usually reserve for only the most important news stories.
The future of cricket in Ireland despite the leaps and bounds in the past few years looks a little uncertain. The International Cricket Committee has recommended that the world cup will now feature only ten teams from now as opposed to fourteen. Eight of the ten teams will be made up of the test cricket nations with the final two places to go to the winners and runners up of a ten-team tournament. This could lead to a talent vacuum as the uncertainty means that eligible Irish players will now play for the English team as they are guaranteed a better remuneration and a chance to play a lot more cricket than they would have done so for Ireland.
Despite the uncertainty of the future for the international teams, on the ground at grassroots level, cricket in Ireland is currently experiencing a boom. The international success at the world cups has brought cricket to the main stream. This isn’t bad for a sport that was seen historically by many as a garrison game that was only played by the British landlords and army occupying Ireland.
Today Cricket Ireland, the governing body for Ireland is currently attempting to attain test status for the Irish National Team. To do this, Cricket Ireland set out what they called the vision for 2020. This vision includes establishing a strong domestic scene and also trying to grow the numbers playing the sport regularly in Ireland to over 50,000. Cricket Ireland are also trying to tap into the popularity of cricket in Ireland at the moment by introducing a number of schemes such as the get into cricket scheme aimed at 6 to 12year olds.
Cricket Ireland believes that with a stronger domestic scene, the ICC will look more favorably on Irelands application to become a test status nation. If the application were successful, it would be huge; the team would have more opportunities to play against quality competition, in the mean time Ireland have two one day matches against both England and Australia this summer to look forward to. Victory against either of these sides would bring Cricket in Ireland along even more leaps and bounds and would add to an ever growing list of incredible achievements already achieved by the Irish cricket team.
(Photo Credit ClickCricket.co.in)