Ireland relishing big stage after clinching Test status
There were celebrations in the Cricket Ireland office last night after the much anticipated but hugely welcome news that Ireland had been admitted as the 11th Full Member of the International Cricket Council.
"Over the moon" was the reaction of a relieved CI chairman Ross McCollum, while skipper William Porterfield said it was "wonderful news for all of Irish cricket".
Porterfield will be 33-years-old next summer when the Irish are expected to play their first Test match but the side's elevation to Test status was even better news for Ed Joyce, Ireland's best batsman who missed out on playing at the highest level for England, but will get the chance to make his Test debut before he turns 40.
Much of the praise for Ireland's successful application was heaped on chief executive Warren Deutrom, whose tireless pursuit of the Holy Grail, outlined in his 2020 Vision five years ago, has been rewarded.
But McCollum (below) was happy to explain that the ICC and the other Full Members - a closed shop for the last 17 years - played their part in promoting both Ireland and Afghanistan to the elite.
"In fairness to the ICC, there has been a sea change in the last 12-24 months. They are very much more open to making the game better and removed the brick walls that were there just four to five years ago," said McCollum.
"The news came through at 3.30pm having been voted through unanimously at the AGM and Council by all the Full Members and Associates. It has taken us a long time to get here, but it has come to fruition. We are over the moon."
The financial windfall has still to be confirmed - there will be an increase of at least 100% on the current $3.3million received annually - but even the figure agreed by the ICC board at their final meeting today may not be the final amount.
"What is agreed tomorrow could change in three months' time because the board has the power to add funding, if it becomes available, where it sees fit, and I know they are working on the commercial side to increase the overall pot and if that increases then everybody will benefit," added McCollum.
"But even if we get twice what we receive, we will have no problem spending it. There is so much work to be doing.
"The unions need to benefit and they have to push money into grassroots cricket, but we also have to invest in facilities and improve pitches where the inter-pros are being played."
The two new Full Members, however, will still be the minnowest of minnows, compared to what the other 10 nations receive. Under the new financial model, kingmakers India will receive $405million - $112m more than voted and agreed on at the April meeting - and even Zimbabwe, who Ireland would fancy beating in a five-day Test, will receive $94m.
But it was the increase in India's take-home money that confirmed Ireland's place on the Test stage, even before the final vote. Having got what they wanted, they were not going to stand in the way of two new members.
Ireland still have two more games to play in the Intercontinental Cup, against the Netherlands and Scotland, but they are rendered almost meaningless as the incentive for the winners-- a Test challenge against Zimbabwe for the right to gain Test status - has now been superseded.
Ireland will still want to win the competition for a fifth and final time but, now, the players can look forward to mixing it with the really big boys.
Porterfield said: "You dream as a youngster of playing at the highest level and for me the opportunity to lead Ireland in their first Test match would be an incredible experience."
2011: Ireland beat England in Bangalore at the World Cup
2012: Deutrom gives his 2020 Vision speech - to achieve Test status by 2020
2013: Ireland win all three Associate trophies - the first team to complete the treble
2015: Ireland beat West Indies and Zimbabwe at the World Cup in Australasia
2016: Ireland qualify for the World Twenty20 for the fifth successive time, their eighth global event
2017 (February): ICC agree in principle to two additional Full Members, subject to meeting the Membership criteria
2017 (June): Ireland (and Afghanistan) granted Full Membership and Test status