National Coach Phil Simmons yesterday led the tributes to Kyle McCallan who has called time on his international career after a record-breaking 226 international appearances.
The 34 year old, who will continue playing club cricket with Waringstown, cited Ireland’s increased fixture schedule as the main reason for bowing out at the top. McCallan has always given 100% commitment to the team sport he has dominated for the last 10 years and he “reached the stage where my career in teaching and my family have to take priority”.
“It's a huge loss for Irish cricket both on and off the field. Not only is he a wonderful cricketer, but he's been a superb ambassador for his sport. It won't be easy to replace such a talent, especially with his experience and discipline,” said Simmons.
“He's been a fantastic role model, and is a credit to Ireland with his dedication and commitment over a long period of time.
“I thought his bowling was just getting better and better, which comes with the experience of 226 caps, and it's tough to lose that. I'd hoped to persuade him to stay on, but I appreciate his reasons for retiring, and wish him and his family all the best.”
Cricket Ireland president Arthur Vincent has followed McCallan’s career since he watched, as a spectator, Kyle score a century in his second international at Malahide to his last game, fittingly, against England at Stormont last August.
“There have been many highs and lows during that time, but Kyle always had a smile on his face, and had just the most wonderful attitude to the game, never more so than during the ICC Trophy in 1997, when he didn't play in a single match, yet remained committed and positive. He's been a great example to others, and has always conducted himself in the best possible manner.
“Kyle will always be regarded as synonymous with Ireland’s coming of age in the modern game, having served with distinction under (coaches Mike) Hendrick, (Ken) Rutherford, (Adi) Birrell and Simmons, as we made the journey to the top table and Irish cricket will forever hold a special place for him.
“Always articulate and a joy to be associated with, I can think of no better ambassador for Irish cricket. I wish him and his family a very happy retirement — he fully deserves it.”
And Roy Torrens, the chairman of selectors when McCallan made his debut against Wales in 1996, and now the Irish manager, continued the theme when he said: “During his Irish career I have found him to be a magnificent ambassador for cricket in general and Ireland in particular. Who will ever forget his performances in 2007 when undoubtedly he was amongst the best off spinners in the world.”
McCallan himself agreed that appearing in the World Cup finals was his “abiding memory” when he had the chance to pit himself against the world’s best.
“I’ve been fortunate to have played with and against some wonderful cricketers, but if I had to single out one, it would be (former West Indies captain) Brian Lara who was just simply a league above anybody else.”
And yes, he did take the great man’s wicket, bowling him for a duck when Lara played for Warwickshire in the NatWest Trophy at Edgbaston in 1998.
As someone who has reported on all but one of Kyle’s internationals, it has been a privilege to have been part of his career. At one stage he played in 53 consecutive games and the only one he missed during Birrell’s five-year, 82-game spell as coach was when he was on honeymoon. Ireland lost, the only time they have ever come second in an Intercontinental Cup match.
Never one to hold a grudge at anything that appeared in print, Kyle always put the sport first, with his dedication on the pitch and talking up the positives off it. It is no coincidence that the common word in all three tributes above was “ambassador”.
There will always be place in Irish cricket for Kyle McCallan and although he has played his last game, it will be surprising if he is not involved in some capacity on the other side of the boundary.
Ireland's top fives
Top five appearances
226 Kyle McCallan
149 Andrew White
124 Peter Gillespie
121 Alan Lewis
118 Garfield Harrison
Top five runs scorers
4,275 Stephen Warke
3,777 Ivan Anderson
3,616 Kyle McCallan
3,579 Alan Lewis
3,245 Andre Botha
Top five wicket-takers
326 Dermott Monteith
307 Jimmy Boucher
256 Kyle McCallan
233 Simon Corlett
206 Alex O’Riordan
Top five catchers (non wicket-takers)
59 Kyle McCallan
57 Alex O’Riordan
54 Stephen Warke
53 Andrew White
48 Simon Corlett
Top five captains
54 Kyle McCallan
49 Trent Johnston
43 William Porterfield
41 Jason Molins
40 Angus Dunlop