Ireland encouraged by ICC proposals
Controversial changes to the international cricket landscape have been welcomed by Ireland, who believe their hopes of becoming a Test-playing nation by 2020 have been given a significant boost by the proposals.
Sweeping alterations to the structure and governance of the game were proposed in a divisive 'position paper' and discussed at this week's International Cricket Council board meeting.
No formal resolutions were made, with a number of the 16-man panel eager for more time to thrash out precise details ahead of a follow-up meeting next month, but a series of key principles were released having been "unanimously supported" by board members.
Among those principles - driven by England, India and Australia - was a commitment to providing "an opportunity for all members to play all formats of cricket on merit, with participation based on meritocracy".
That phrase is particularly enticing to the Irish, who have long harboured ambitions of Test status, with Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom taking it as a firm pledge to break down the glass ceiling that currently separates the 10 full ICC members and associates.
He told Press Association Sport: "Ireland has set out its stall to play Test cricket before 2020, and this board outcome was much further forward in terms of the timing of structural progress than we would have imagined.
"It is our belief that the ICC principle relating to meritocracy in every format of the game is unambiguous.
"It seems the authors of the proposals are keen for Ireland to have the chance of progressing to the next tier.
"This level of detail is yet to be fleshed out, so I shall take the board's over-riding principle as very encouraging."
Deutrom, a canny political operator with experience of working at both the England and Wales Cricket Board and within the ICC itself, has also welcomed the possibility of meeting England in the Test arena.
ECB chairman Giles Clarke has already indicated a willingness for such a meeting, should Ireland be granted Test status, and Deutrom is grateful for that support.
"I have seen that Giles has been quoted foreshadowing a scenario whereby England would play Ireland in a 'historic Test match' should Ireland progress to the Test ranks on merit," he added.
"We are delighted our aspirations are being taken seriously, and are grateful that ECB has taken the lead in driving through these meritocratic principles."
Yet, Irish ambitions do not stop with their nearest neighbours.
Although the financial implications of the proposed changes at ICC level have been roundly criticised - specifically the focus on the three richest nations (India, England and Australia) getting an even greater share of revenue - Deutrom expects Ireland's funding to increase.
Should that be the case, more overseas tours could be the direct result.
"The intention behind the new proposals seems to be to try and double our funding from ICC to assist us to become more competitive, which is dead right - and we trust that the reality matches this intention," he said.
"Should funding permit, we can also now begin to look more seriously at playing in full member countries, an example of which is our current trip to the Caribbean."