Belfast Telegraph

Get your hands off Irish starlets, slams Ponting

By Ian Callender

Ricky Ponting is concerned at the number of players Ireland are losing to county cricket.

Speaking ahead of today’s sell-out one-day international at Clontarf, between the No 1 Associate and the world champions, the Australia captain said the ICC should be worried about the number of overseas players turning out for England.

“If they are trying to develop Ireland as a cricketing nation they should be worried at the number of players being coached in the country and then leaving for county cricket,” said Ponting (pictured).

“If Ireland continue to develop and eventually become a Test nation they can’t afford to have their better players going off at a young age.

“Counties are jumping on players as young as 17 and 18, kids who have had a good tournament or a few good games, they offer them money and off they go.

“I can understand that, as far as the players are concerned but the ICC have to step in and try and do their best so that the young county players get a chance to play for their country first and foremost.

“We want to play the best team that we can. This is a one-day international so I’m very sympathetic to counties like Ireland who are losing their better players.”

While Ireland were at full strength today, bar the injured Andre Botha who is set to sit out the next six weeks with a stress fracture in his back, captain William Porterfield, wicket-keeper Niall O’Brien and opening bowler Boyd Rankin will all miss the six ODIs at the World Cricket League in Holland at the start of next month, because of the demands of their counties, putting at risk Ireland’s place as the top nation below Test level.

Rankin cannot even get into the Warwickshire line-up which, he admitted, left him chronically short of match practice.

The former Bready pace man said: I’m still training and bowling, but it’s not the same as playing matches so I’m looking forward to hitting my straps against the Aussies. It’s been very frustrating but Warwickshire are keen for me to play in all forms of the game.

“I have done well in one-day games, not so well in four-day games so I still feel undercooked in the longer form of the game. But it will come in the next month.

“Warwickshire play 13 days’ cricket in 14 days during the World League so they were never going to let me go. I have to concentrate on playing for my county.”

In contrast, O’Brien claimed he was available for five of Ireland’s six matches in Holland but it would have meant him flying back and forward for the matches so Simmons was content to give the county first call — this time. It will be Ireland’s call when Bangladesh play at Stormont next month.

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