Belfast Telegraph

Cricket's first Test to replace Irish coach as Bracewell quits

 

By Ian Callender

John Bracewell will not be the man to lead Ireland into the new era of Test match cricket.

Cricket Ireland and Bracewell yesterday bowed to the inevitable and mutually agreed that he will leave his post as head coach when his contract ends at the beginning of December.

The early agreement means that Cricket Ireland will have almost five months to pursue and appoint a successor to ensure a seamless handover, and former coaches Adi Birrell and Phil Simmons will be in the frame.

Unlike Birrell, who guided Ireland onto the World stage for the first time by qualifying for the 2007 World Cup, and Simmons, who won 12 trophies in eight years of unparalleled success, Bracewell has endured a hard time with an ageing team and a dearth of talent coming through.

They only qualified for the World Twenty20 in third place after losing to Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong and in the finals they failed to get out of their group, losing to Oman and the Netherlands. They have plummeted to 17th in the world in the shortest format of the game.

They have also lost a three-match one-day international series in Zimbabwe and have seen former Associate rivals Afghanistan move clear of them in all three formats, culminating in a 7-2 defeat on their recent tour.

Admittedly, Ireland have played seven of the top eight nations in the last year but it was the size and manner of the succession of defeats which has been worrying, at a time when the Irish need to be closing the gap as they prepare to play even more matches against what are now their peers, after being elevated to Full Membership status by the International Cricket Council last month.

In his statement yesterday, Bracewell said it was a mutual decision because he did not want to coach a Test nation again, having had six years of what he described as the “full-on Full Member road” with New Zealand back in the 2000s.

“I took on the role as head coach because I believed in the little guy getting a fair break and the cause of attaining Test status appealed to my underdog psyche. That having been achieved, albeit by an unexpected turn of events, has left me looking for a new goal and challenge,” said Bracewell.

“Before my departure there are still a mountain of things to be put in place in assisting (Performance Director) Richard Holdsworth and the coaching staff in preparing the Irish players for this new, exciting and very tough future. For the players there is the small matter of the Inter-Continental Cup to win, and a West Indies team to beat.”

Those three games — the next against the Netherlands at Malahide starting on August 15 — are the only scheduled fixtures between now and the end of Bracewell’s contract, which officially ends after the I-Cup game against Scotland in the UAE on November 29-December 2.

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom praised the 59-year-old Bracewell’s passionate endeavours.

“John is a man of great integrity who has offered a great deal to Irish cricket’s cause in the last two years,” said Deutrom. “He is admired by the players and his colleagues at Cricket Ireland and deserves both our sincere thanks and appreciation for his hard work, commitment and contribution.

“This mutual decision has been made as we focus on next year’s World Cup Qualifier and future Test team, and our need to build an approach to deliver success over the coming years within a new performance structure, and as a new ICC Full Member country.” 

Holdsworth added his praise for Bracewell in what has been a difficult 18 months in charge and said he still had important work to do.

“John has immersed himself in the role, blooded and developed several new players (there have been eight new caps during his reign so far) and has helped lay the foundations of a new coaching structure to build on.”

Bracewell’s next assignment, which he will still fulfil, will be to travel with a strong Ireland Wolves side for their final three-day game against the MCC Young Cricketers at Southgate, starting next Wednesday.

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