New Zealand coach John Bracewell relishing Ireland cricket bid for Test status
Former New Zealand coach John Bracewell is the man tasked with the challenge of leading Ireland into the Test match arena.
The 57-year-old was yesterday confirmed as successor to Phil Simmons on an initial two-and-a-half-year contract which will take him to the end of the next Intercontinental Cup, Ireland's pathway to the highest level of the sport.
The winners of the competition have a guaranteed four-match challenge against the lowest-ranked Test nation with Test status the prize for the following four years.
"There is nothing I enjoy more than fighting for a cause and in cricket terms there is none better than obtaining Test status," said Bracewell. "Already Ireland have achieved tremendous international results and gained respect at international tournaments to the point where they are no longer regarded as a banana skin match but true qualifying contenders."
Bracewell's most recent appointment was as Director of Cricket at Gloucestershire, his second spell with the county, although not nearly as successful as his first when he led them to the second division County championship title in 2002 and five one-day trophies. He terminated his contract when it ended last January.
As coach of New Zealand from 2003 to 2008, he led them to the semi-final of three global tournaments, including the 2007 ICC World Cup in the West Indies, which included a win over Ireland in Guyana. New Zealand reached the semi-final that year but when he quit his post the Kiwis had slipped to eighth in the Test rankings.
Bracewell made a presentation to the Irish coaching conference and "listened to the passion" of current and former players, adding that "the parallels with my New Zealand cricket journey really resonated with me".
The new coach will not be directly involved with the squad when they assemble next week for the one-day international against England at Malahide, but will be in attendance. Current assistant coach Pete Johnston will be in charge of the squad until Bracewell takes over for the opening Intercontinental Cup game, against UAE also at Malahide, on Tuesday June 2.
He will have the full squad available as the competition is now a mandatory release.
Ireland captain William Porterfield, who played under Bracewell for a season in the New Zealander's second spell with Gloucestershire, hailed it as a "fantastic appointment".
He said: "His experience in all formats, both internationally and domestically, will stand us in good stead, especially as we build towards our goal of Test cricket.
"He improved my game at Gloucestershire and I'm certain he will fit in really well in Ireland where the squad will relish the opportunity to work with him."
As a player, Bracewell was New Zealand's leading off-spinner in 41 Test matches and 53 ODIs, taking 102 and 33 wickets respectively. He can also boast a Test match century, batting at No 8 against England at Trent Bridge in 1986.
But it was his coaching experience at Test match level which convinced Cricket Ireland they have the right man, the only one who applied, I understand, to have that on his CV.
The downturn in fortunes at Gloucestershire in recent years coincided with their attempts to rebuild the team around young talent on a tight budget. With some of Ireland's players approaching the end of their careers, CI will be hoping any similarity with Ireland ends there.