The one player all the media wanted to talk to in the build-up to today’s World Cup clash between Ireland and England was Ed Joyce, the Dubliner who played 50 times for Ireland before transferring his allegiance to England.
Having played against the country of his birth in Guyana at the last World Cup, four years to the month later he is playing for Ireland against his former team-mates. Hardly surprising that the English media can’t get enough of Joyce’s dual personality and, equally unsurprising, that Joyce has put a ban on any more interviews with the English media.
He has done more than 100 of them since his arrival in India three weeks ago and the Sussex batsman has been out of bounds in the last few days, despite persistent requests from the journalists in India and by phone from all round the world.
It needed a ruling by the ICC’s Cricket Committee to allow Joyce to take part in the World Cup. Along with Hamish Marshall, the former New Zealand international and Irish passport holder who has also declared his allegiance to Ireland, Joyce has not played international cricket since the last World Cup which, because it took place in the West Indies, was held a month later than this year’s event. So technically, because of the four-year re-qualification rule, both he and Marshall are ineligible to play for a different country until next month.
Joyce was given special dispensation to play, but Marshall must wait until after the World Cup to make his Ireland debut. Ed admits he was surprised by the ICC decision.
“In India (at the Ireland training camp in November), Hamish and myself talked about it and we didn’t really expect to be involved in the World Cup. There is no reason to suspect ICC would (take the decision) but I can see the argument why they did. Obviously it helps that I’m Irish and history shows I have played for Ireland and I was coming back to play for the country of my birth. I’m, obviously, glad they did,” said Joyce in his only interview this week.
It was only last year that Joyce even thought about returning to his native colours as, until then, he was still pursuing his dream of playing Test cricket — the reason he abandoned Ireland in 2005. But then, as he puts it, Ireland came calling.
“I had a chat with (Cricket Ireland chief executive) Warren Deutrom and Phil (Simmons, the Ireland coach). And the way cricket in Ireland has been going places, I felt it was the right time. I’m 32 now so I’m still reasonably young enough to contribute,” said Joyce.
“I didn’t want to come back and play at the end of my career. I wanted to come back and try and make a difference. Whether that happens remains to be seen but I should be in the prime of my career so I want to help Ireland move onto the next level, which is what everyone is hoping.”
Although he has not played for England in four years, he admitted it wasn’t an easy decision to return to Ireland because “you never know what’s going to happen”.
“I was still playing well, I still had thoughts of England A. But it was more to do with not wanting to be 34-35 and say I’ll go back and play for Ireland now. I wanted to make a positive difference and, thankfully, Warren, Phil and Porty (captain William Porterfield) thought the same and I’m chuffed that the ICC have given me the opportunity to play in this World Cup.”
Defeat in the first match against Bangladesh was not in the great scheme of things, nor was getting out for 16, and Joyce admits the team were unprepared for Mohammad Ashraful’s slow bowling.
Joyce said: “He wasn’t top of the Bangladesh bowlers we had worked on but he got both Whitey and myself, and overall it was disappointing to lose the match because we had a great opportunity to win it.
“It makes the England match very important, because losing the first two would make it difficult to qualify for the quarter finals, but a win would set us up for the remaining four group games and we would need to win only two of them.”
Will he be under any more pressure because it’s England? “No more than usual,” he replies. “Obviously there is a bit of history (he was a team-mate of four of today’s England side in the last World Cup match between the teams in 2007) but it’s all about winning the game. It’s not about me although, obviously, I would love to help Ireland win the match.”