Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

What now for future of Irish cricket?

Ireland coach Phil Simmons during the warm up before the match against New Zealand

Not content with voting to bar Ireland from the 2015 World Cup, the England cricket authorities yesterday attempted to gag Irish players from talking about their shameful decision.

End of the world: IreIand coach Phil Simmons has seen his team ruled out of the next World CupIN 2019, Kevin O’Brien — Ireland’s World Cup hero for his match-winning century against England — will be 35 years old.

His brother Niall will be 38, John Mooney, the man who hit the winning runs last month on that never-forgotten day in Bangalore will be 37 and Andrew White will be 39.

The ages are significant because it is the next time that any of the quartet will have a chance to play for Ireland in the World Cup finals.

Kevin will hope to be there for one last fling, but it must be big odds against his older team-mates still being around to enjoy another appearance on the world stage.

It shouldn’t be so and it is totally unfair, but when did fairness matter to the executive board of the International Cricket Council?

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom has already said he will not take the decision lying down but no-one, least of all Deutrom, a former ICC employee and currently on the Chief Executive’s Committee, is expecting a change of heart.

More than 24 hours after the decision which has caused uproar throughout the world, the front page of the ICC website had still no mention of its decision. You had to go into a story entitled “ICC Executive Board meets in Mumbai” to find two paragraphs confirming the format of the 2015 tournament — but only after 13 paragraphs eulogising about the success of the 2011 event, in which Ireland played such a significant part.

It is believed that with the next television contract due for renewal in four years time, the board were keen to ensure plenty of matches between the bigger nations — for example India’s group game against England and their glamourous knock-out matches against Australia, Pakistan and the final against Sri Lanka attracted “hundreds of millions of viewers.”

Never mind that Ireland’s match against England, the upset of the tournament, was one of the most exciting games.

Ireland have already lost Eoin Morgan to England, in his successful pursuit of playing Test cricket. Now, incredibly, Ireland are in danger of losing their best players to one-day cricket as well because England can promise them participation in the next World Cup.

Ireland captain William Porterfield said yesterday: “Everyone who was at that World Cup wants to play cricket for Ireland, wants to play another World Cup for Ireland, but ICC obviously don’t want Ireland to progress and they are supposed to be the world governing body.

“All they are doing is taking cricket backwards, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. It is an absolute shambles.”

George Dockrell will be only 26 in 2019 and Paul Stirling in his prime at 28 but will they still be Ireland players by then?

Will a biennial Twenty20 World Cup and the occasional ODI be enough to keep them in Ireland colours or will England come calling for the country’s finest?

Just five weeks after Irish cricket’s greatest day, it is at a crossroads.

The fight for Cricket Ireland now is not just to get into the next World Cup but, even more crucially, to hold on to their best players.

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