Boyd Rankin admits he's eager for an Ireland return
Boyd Rankin has said that he wants to play for Ireland at the World Twenty20 in India in March.
The Bready-born fast bowler, who gave up his Ireland career after the 2012 World Twenty20 to pursue his ambition of playing Test cricket for England, has not played for the Three Lions since January 2014 and has reluctantly admitted that he is unlikely to get another chance.
Rankin becomes eligible to play for Ireland again on January 17, two years after his last England appearance, and he will meet with Cricket Ireland head coach John Bracewell and Performance Director Richard Holdsworth this month to thrash out a deal which will lead to him resuming his international career with Ireland.
The news that the Warwickshire professional - he returns to county training next week - was set to abandon his Test ambitions broke last week during England's final match against Pakistan in Sharjah and when I asked Boyd if he would be playing for Ireland in India next year, he replied, with his hand on a table: "Touch wood".
It would be the perfect time for Rankin to add to his 82 Ireland caps (including 37 ODIs and 27 T20Is) because not only will the top Associate nation be playing in their eighth successive global event - Rankin played in the first five - but they have one-day internationals lined up against Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa and Australia in the space of three months and Ireland will become the 11th Test match country if they win the Intercontinental Cup.
Rankin is sure to be welcomed back into the squad with open arms by Bracewell because their pace bowling continues to be exposed at the highest level, although Ireland's tallest bowler - he is 6ft 8in - will return alongside many familiar faces.
No fewer than seven of the players in the last Ireland line-up he appeared in, and 10 of the squad that was in Sri Lanka three years ago, are still around with only Trent Johnston, Alex Cusack, Andrew White and Nigel Jones missing, having retired from the international scene. But after losing three of their T20 qualifying games, there should be no guarantee they will be all selected for India next year.
Rankin has been home for the last three weeks at his favourite place, his father's farm, and was a welcome guest at the North West union's annual dinner where he presented the prizes to the women players of the year, one of whom, Batsman of the Year Julie Logue, made history by making the North West team of the year. For Strabane Saints, the former Ireland international scored 288 runs in eight innings without being dismissed and took 15 wickets, costing just six runs each, including six in one innings without conceding a run.
The North West Player of the Year was Scott Campbell, who captained Coleraine to the Premiership title, while David Rankin, younger brother of Boyd, was voted the Warriors Player of the Year.
Meanwhile, NCU champions Waringstown have been named Team of the Year and Simon Johnston Coach of the Year. Both will receive their awards at the Cricket Ireland lunch in Dublin on Friday.
Ed Joyce is the Men's Player of the Year, John Mooney the top inter-provincial player and Eddie Richardson of North County the Club Player of the Year.
Coleraine's Varun Chopra will receive the Junior Player award and North West umpire Roly Black is the Official of the Year.