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Ford relishing chance to lead Ireland into new Test era

 

By Ian Callender

Graham Ford will lead Ireland into the new era of Full Member and Test match status after being confirmed yesterday as John Bracewell's successor as head coach.

The 56-year-old South African was the stand-out candidate from 25 applicants and, having been offered the job at the start of the week, with no complications or current employers to negotiate with, Cricket Ireland were able to announce his appointment yesterday, ahead of Wednesday's one-day international against West Indies at Stormont.

Ford will not be present at the match and his three-year contract starts in December during Ireland's tour of the UAE, which will include their final Intercontinental Cup match against Scotland - likely to be Bracewell's last match - and three ODIs against Afghanistan when Ford will take over.

Those ODIs will be the start of Ireland's match preparation for the 2019 ICC World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe, now set to be held in March/April next year.

Born in Pietermaritzburg, Ford's first-class playing career totalled only seven matches with his home province, Natal, spread over eight seasons but he took over as coach in 1992 and has enjoyed success in that role over the last 25 years.

He was appointed South Africa coach following the 1999 World Cup and won eight of the 11 series they contested but lost his job after suffering back-to-back defeats against Australia in 2002. He was director of cricket at Kent in 2005 when current international Niall O'Brien was with the south coast county and in 2014-15, he named Gary Wilson as captain when he was coach at Surrey.

Either side of his two-year stay at The Oval, Ford was in charge of Sri Lanka, before he parted company for the second time in June this year.

Speaking of his new challenge, Ford said: "I am really excited to be a part of this new era in Irish cricket. I have always enjoyed working with decent people and, in their attitude, character and camaraderie, the Irish cricketers have always come across as such.

"With my knowledge and experience I believe I can genuinely make a difference. All my efforts will be dedicated to assisting the players to improve and achieve their full potential while playing an enjoyable brand of cricket."

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom said that Ford's appointment sent out a strong message as Ireland join the elite of the world game.

"Graham has a strong reputation for man-management, improving individual and team performances at all levels, and has shown how to build winning teams in all formats," he said.

"He is well respected throughout the cricketing world, and we believe his coaching CV sends out a strong signal of our intention to try and hit the ground running as quickly as possible as a competitive force among the Full Member nations."

Explaining their choice, his new boss, Cricket Ireland performance director Richard Holdsworth, said: "The panel was strongly persuaded by Graham's clear understanding of what the Ireland team and Irish cricket in general needs right now, while he is already familiar with some of our players through his coaching spells at Kent and Surrey.

"In the short-term, his expertise in the shorter forms of the game will also be vital as we build towards two major ICC events over the next three years while longer term he is aiming to strengthen the national team in its rebuilding process from a core of long-established players to a younger, less experienced team."

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